Thursday, March 31, 2011

2 great years

On April Fool's Day this year, my student N. and I will celebrate two years of tutoring together.  I like him so much I've decided to drag things out so that someday I'll be tutoring him on how to join the AARP.

In true N. & Kerri/April Fool's Day fashion, I bought him a special present:  a t-shirt of his very favorite pop star.  Unfortunately, they didn't have the shirt in his size (or even in the boys' section), so I decided to frame it.  Also unfortunately, the dollar store didn't have any frames deep enough to hold a t-shirt, so I had to put rubber bands on the ends to hold it together.  I worked really hard on this one.

N., the dear child, was thrilled when he unwrapped his present.

N's family owns an operates stables, so at the end of our lesson today we walked out to the pasture together and worked on building N's verbal expression skills by talking about the horses.  He was telling me about one horse and I said, "Which one is it?"  N. pointed to a line of four horses and said, "That one."  "Which one?" I said, pushing him to use more details.  "That one," N. said and pointed again, believing, based on personal experience, that I am an idiot.  "I see those four horses; which one of the four is ---?"  N. pointed again, fairly dancing on his toes, "THAT ONE RIGHT THERE!!!"  Fortunately for N, the horses started to walk toward us and he was able to explain to his ditz of a tutor which horse he had been describing for 5 minutes.  It was wonderful to watch N. with the horses; he's got horseback riding in his blood, and the love between him and the animals is mutual.  He told me he comes out sometimes and sits on the fence and just watches the horses for a while.  One time he was mad, and he went outside and got on a horse and laid down and took a nap.  I'll have to get pics.

N, I can't put into words how amazing I think you are, but I'll try:  funny, quick-witted, way too good-looking, goofy, kind, loving, and a joy to be with.  You are a kindred spirit, and every time I am with you you encourage me, make me laugh, make me think, and make me happy.  I love you lots and lots!

dear Benjamin

Hey Buddy!  I've been thinking about you lately.  The other day I told your mom that most of the communication you and I share is nonverbal.  I love that.  We get each other, and we don't have to explain what we mean.  I love racing with you in the pool, although I hope you'll let me win a race someday soon while I'm still taller than you.  I love hearing about your Lego cities and complicated, wonderful drawings of cities and ships in space.  You still owe me a picture, by the way.  I love the times we've looked at each other and laughed, just between ourselves, at something that just happened.  And I'm so glad you're goofy, too.

Years ago, a man named P.G. Wodehouse wrote several stories and books about a goofy guy named Bertie Wooster, his valet Jeeves, his Aunt Dahlia, and many other funny characters.  I have his book Right Ho, Jeeves on tape, and I've listened to it so many times that I'm wearing out the tape because it makes me laugh so much.  It makes me happy, and I think of you, and I hope our relationship will be somewhat similar to Bertie's and his aunt's.  They are very close, which makes one of my favorite passages even funnier, in my opinion.  Your brain works a lot better than Bertie's, but I love their interaction with one another.  I hope you'll understand and enjoy this, now or sometime later, and send me an email or whatever we'll have in the future, and I'll send you a goofy one back.

In Right Ho, Jeeves, Bertie, who is a rich young man living in London, has just returned to his home after spending two months with his aunt and cousin in France.  A couple of days after he gets home, he receives a telegram from his Aunt Dahlia, whose last name is Travers.  The telegram said:

"Come at once.  Travers."

Bertie is confused; he wonders why his aunt wants to see him again so desperately so soon.  Bertie says, '...yet here she was, with my farewell kiss still lingering on her cheek, so to speak, pleading for another reunion.   Bertram Wooster is not accustomed to this gluttonous appetite for his society.  Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you that after two months of my company, what the normal person feels is that that will about do for the present.'

Bertie sends a telegram back to his aunt:

"Perplexed.  Explain.  Bertie."

Aunt replies, using a word that your mom and dad won't let me say in front of you, so I replaced it:

"What on earth is there to be perplexed about, (silly goose)?  Come at once.  Travers."

Bertie puzzles over this for a while, then responds:

"How do you mean 'come at once'?  Regards, Bertie."

"I mean come at once, you maddening half-wit.  What did you think I meant?  Come at once, or expect an aunt's curse first post tomorrow.  Love, Travers."

"When you say 'come,' do you mean come to Brinkley Court?  (His aunt's house.)  And when you say 'at once,' do you mean at once?  Fogged.  At a loss. All the best, Bertie."

"Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  It doesn't matter whether you understand or not, you just come at once as I tell you, and for heaven's sake stop this backchat.  Do you think I am made of money that I can afford to send you telegrams every 10 minutes?  Stop being a fathead and come immediately.  Love, Travers."

Bertie decides to ask his valet (helper) Jeeves, who is very smart, what he thinks the telegrams mean:

'Jeeves,' I said, ' these....What do you make of it, Jeeves?'
'I think Mrs. Travers wishes you to come at once, Sir.'
'You gather that too, do you?'
'Yes, Sir.'
'I put the same construction on the thing.  But why, Jeeves?  Dash it all, she's just had nearly two months of me.'
'Yes, Sir.'
'And many people consider the medium dose for an adult two days.'
'Yes, Sir, I appreciate the point you raise; nevertheless, Mrs. Travers appears very insistent, and I think it would be well to acquiesce in her wishes.'
'Pop down, you mean?'
'Yes, Sir.'
'Well I can't go at once....I'll wire her that I'll be with her sometime next week or the week after.  Dash it all, she ought to be able to hold out without me for a few days.  It only requires will power.'
'Yes, Sir.'

Bertie tells his aunt he'll see her later.  Aunt Dahlia doesn't appreciate his lack of urgency and respect, so early the next morning she drives from her country house to Bertie's house in London, marches into his room, and yells at him, waking him from a sound sleep.  Their conversation gets around to why she wanted Bertie to come to her in the first place.

Aunt Dahlia:  'Have you ever heard of Market Snodsbury Grammar School?'
Bertie:  'Never.'
'It's the grammar school at Market Snodsbury.'
I (Bertie) told her, a little frigidly, that I had divined as much.
'Well how was I to know that a man with a mind like yours would grasp it so quickly?...I'm one of the governours (of the school).'
'You mean, one of the governesses.' (teachers)
'I don't mean one of the governesses.  Listen, (silly goose).  There was a Board of Governours at Eton, wasn't there?  Very well, so there is at Market Snodsbury Grammar School, and I'm a member of it.'

Aunt Dahlia wants Bertie to make a speech at the school, but Bertie really doesn't want to.  He ends up sending a friend of his to his aunt's house, but doesn't tell his friend that he hopes the friend will get roped into making the speech for him.  After the frustration of the last two days, Aunt Dahlia doesn't respond well to a stranger just showing up at her house with a note from Bertie.  She wires (telegrams) Bertie:

"Am taking legal advice to ascertain whether strangling an idiot nephew counts as murder.  If it doesn't, look out for yourself....'

Bertie takes the next step in his plan to have his friend give the speech instead of him and wires back to his aunt:

'On consulting engagement book, find it impossible come Brinkley Court.  Deeply regret.  Toodleoo, Bertie.'

Aunt Dahlia's reply 'struck a sinister note': "Oh.  So it's like that, is it?  You and your engagement book indeed.  'Deeply regret,' my foot.  Let me tell you my lad, that you will regret it a jolly sight more deeply if you don't come down....Deeply regret Brinkley Court 100 miles from London as unable hit you with a brick.  Love, Travers."

In the end, Bertie goes to his aunt's but gets out of making the speech.  He causes a lot of funny problems at his aunt's house and drives her nuts and they live happily ever after.

Just like us, I hope.

Auntie Kerri

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

grandpa's new digs

Grandpa's been doing very well lately, gaining back a little weight and strength.  We've been able to expand his living area to include a separate bedroom.  I had the job of Decorating Helper.  Partly because Grandpa nominated me for the position, and partly because no one else would do it.  Now, we love Grandpa, and we love to help him.  But our family can be a bit obsessive-compulsive sometimes.  For example, I just Googled "obsessive-compulsive" to make sure I had the hyphen right.  Wait - is that how you spell "obsessive"?  Yeah, okay.  Grandpa likes to have his things arranged just so, the definition of "just so" being "just exactly how I want it at this moment, to a fraction of an inch, so get started."  Last October Grandpa nearly drove mom batty when he wanted the pumpkin we'd painted with the New York Yankees logo turned to face the wall when they lost in the playoffs.  She tried every configuration she could think of, and Grandpa kept saying no, no, like this, etc.  Mom thinks that by the time he was happy with the pumpkin it was in the same position she tried initially, except that she had turned the pumpkin clockwise instead of ccw.  Or vice versa; I don't know if Gpa wanted it lefty-loosey or righty-tighty.  Anyway, he can be a bit picky.  It runs in the family.  Quit touching my blog.

When we found out Grandpa was going to have another room, I was very excited to fix it up any way he wanted it. 

Unfortunately, I only got to hammer in 5 nails and use a bunch of sticky tack.

When I put the first picture where he wanted it, I stayed up against the wall and melodramatically refused to move until Grandpa was sure it was straight.

Grandpa laughed and had me adjust it just once.  After that, he laughed again and said, "I'm not going to check if it's straight anymore."  And he didn't.  Everything else I put up was "just fine."  That is until I walked into the room later, turned the corner, and nearly fell over because the John Deere sign was so crooked.  I went ahead and fixed it - only needed to move and rehammer the right nail about 3 times...or was it 5?  Ended up with a cozy niche in the wall....Have you seen The Shawshank Redemption?  Yeah.  Hopefully Grandpa will outlive me.  Or Dad.  Just as long as the sign stays where it is until then.

Grandpa wants to play an April Fool's joke on Dad this Friday.  Maybe I'll give Grandpa the power tools...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Credo for Support

The videos to the left of this column have a very powerful message written by a man with cerebral palsy and his wife.  When you view humanity in this way, the whole world changes.

A Credo for Support
c. 1995 by Norman Kunc and Emma Van der Klift

Throughout history,
people with physical and mental disabilities
have been abandoned at birth,
banished by society,
used as court jesters,
drowned and burned during the Inquisition,
gassed in Nazi Germany,
and still continue to be segregated, institutionalized,
tortured in the name of behavior management,
abused, raped, euthanized, and murdered.
Now, for the first time, people with disabilities are taking their rightful place as fully contributing citizens.  The danger is that we will respond with remediation and benevolence rather than equity and respect.  And so, we offer you

A Credo for Support

Do Not see my disability as the problem.
Recognize that my disability is an attribute.

Do Not see my disability as a deficit.
It is you who see me as deviant and helpless.

Do Not try to fix me, because I am not broken.
Support me.  I can make my contribution to the community in my way.

Do Not see me as your client.  I am your fellow citizen.
See me as your neighbor.  Remember, none of us can be self-sufficient.

Do Not try to modify my behavior.
Be still and listen.
What you define as inappropriate may be my attempt to communicate with you in the only way I can.

Do Not try to change me, you have no right.
Help me learn what I want to know.

Do Not hide your uncertainty behind "professional" distance.
Be a person who listens, and does not take my struggle away from me by trying to make it all better.

Do Not use theories and strategies on me.
Be with me.  And when we struggle with each other, let that give rise to self-reflection.

Do Not try to control me.  I have a right
to my power as a person.
What you call non-compliance or manipulation may actually be the only way I can exert some control over my life.

Do Not teach me to be obedient, submissive, and polite.
I need to feel entitled to say No if I am to protect myself.

Do Not be charitable towards me.
The last thing the world needs is another Jerry Lewis.
Be my ally against those who exploit me
for their own gratification.

Do Not try to be my friend.  I deserve more than that.
Get to know me.  We may become friends.

Do Not help me, even if it does make you feel good.
Ask me if I need your help.  Let me show you how you can best assist me.

Do Not admire me.  A desire to live a full life does not warrant adoration.
Respect me, for respect presumes equity.

Do Not tell, correct, and lead.
Listen, Support, and Follow.

Do Not work on me.
Work with me.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

From "Ask Me" by William Stafford

Photo from:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

babysitting for sloths

1.  Turn on child's favorite TV show.
2.  Put child's favorite chair in favorite spot in front of TV.
3.  Kick back and relax!

"A happy child is a well-cared-for child."   me (the sloth)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

flashes of genius at the dollar store

I simply had to go to the dollar store yesterday.  Was in the mood to browse, so I wandered through the Easter and toy areas before going to...what was I going to get there...?  Oh well.  When I saw the camoflauge-patterned Easter baskets I winced - the thoughts of war and Easter don't really go together for me, but then I thought:  camo eggs.  Of course!  I'm sure someone else has already thought of them, but it just makes so much sense!  Wish I'd thought of it years ago when I used to hide eggs for the younger kids at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Then I saw a slingshot with a water ball in the pool toys area.  Ta-da!!!  Another great idea!  I could shoot the ball down to the end of my lane, swim with the slingshot to retrieve the ball, shoot, etc.  Then I pictured myself using it with no glasses and my gift for klutziness:

Besides, once I'm at the pool I don't need motivation to move.  It's getting out of bed and showering that I'm less than fond of.  I wish I'd been born a bear, or some other hibernating animal.

Then another flash of genius!  My Girl Scout cookies just arrived.  I could shoot Thin Mints from my bed to my door - that would get me hustling!  Then I realized this would be the real scenario (I'm pretty sure it's not a coincidence that my door in the 1st picture looks like the door to hell.):