Saturday, December 18, 2010

You Sure Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover!

There are no pictures with this Blog just something that was so moving I want to share it. As most of my friends know I'm a learning consultant working as an out of district case manager. Many of my kids are medically fragile, autistic or exhibit behavior problems that cannot be handled within their own home schools. I've written about some of my adventures before but this one takes the cake.

My little guy, whom I'll refer to as Eddy (obviously not his real name) is six years old. Eddy is severely deformed without arms or legs, a bulging eye and a cleft palate. When he was born his mother was told he might live a year. So much for that. Eddy does however have very small extensions from his shoulder areas with some fingers. He is the size of infant and considered legally blind and non-verbal. When I say non-verbal it simply means it is difficult to understand his vocal sounds. Eddy loves "Dora the Explorer" and will say her name and a few other words.

Eddy had never been in an educational placement because his mother was afraid to let him go. However when Eddy turned five it was time to find an educational placement for him. His mother was still extremely hesitant in allowing or trying to let go of him. With a lot of tender loving care Eddy's previous case manager worked with his mother and finally called me for some suggestions. At that time I had not met Eddy but was very aware of him. We all met for the first time at a school I thought would be perfect for him.

I met the other case manager, Eddy's mother and Eddy at the school. Initially I was shocked by what I saw but able to maintain my professional composure. The school administrator was just as shocked but not so professional. Eddy and his mother took the tour of the facility visiting the first grade class first. It was during morning exercises in which music about the days of the week played in the background.

Eddy traveled in a baby stroller which was parked next to his mother whom by this time was sitting in a chair. All of a sudden Eddy began rocking back and forth. His mother knew that meant he wanted to be out of the stroller. She sat him on her lap and he began to bounce and rock with the music. We then moved on to the pre-school class where again music relating to months played. Eddy was in heaven enjoying what he heard.

After the visitation we met in the conference room with all the therapists and the administrator. Eddy's mother demonstrated his ability to eat very finely chopped food while discussing with the therapists his medical conditions, which weren't all that significant considering his visual appearance. The therapists fell in love with him immediately. That young man made it clear with his body and head movements that he knew we were talking about him. I was impressed because he presented with eye contact towards the speaker. Ideas were flying all over the room as to how they were going to enhance his communication, mobilization and education. We thought we had it made - not.

In short I believe Eddy's deformities impacted heavily on the administrators and prevented his enrollment. I was rather upset with them but not put off. Another private Catholic school nearby also catered to the profoundly disabled population. I gave them a call, we toured and Eddy was accepted on the spot. It was the last day I worked before summer break. Eddy was going to begin his educational career during the summer. I was a nervous wreck now because no one would be around to monitor his transportation or transition into the new program.

Upon returning to work in September I made it a point to visit Eddy first. His classroom teacher greeted me enthusiastically and told me all about his summer transition. It went very well and without any problems. A sigh of relief.

It just so happened that I arrived at his classroom during his PT therapy. Well, he put on quite a show for me. His therapist had designed foam extension representing his arm that was Velcro around his small hand near his shoulder. Eddy moved his arm to activate a switch connected to a pig. The pig snorted and walked when the switch was activated. It was difficult for him but he did it. The therapist then placed Eddy on his stomach in what looked like a neck pillow. She moved another switch within reach of his tiny fingers and prompted him to activate the switch. It only took one prompt.

I've been back to see Eddy a couple of times since. The second time I visited Eddy was sitting in a half circle with his classmates discussing the fall foliage. His teacher was asking each student about their favorite color of leaves. I have to interrupt myself here to note that Eddy's teacher and classroom aide informed me that when he doesn't want to do work he'll sing "This Old Man" or "Bingo".

I sat next to Eddy talking to him quietly. So that we would be ready for his teacher, I began asking him what was his favorite color. As I named the various colors, Eddy nodded "no". I finally named brown and received a "yes" answer. Keep in mind I didn't have any color cards to show him as I rattled off the colors. It was intended as just a social fun thing. His teacher finally reached him and showed him a yellow leaf and a brown leaf. He was to acknowledge his favorite through head nodding. Oh yeah! He picked the brown leaf. Hmmm.... I stayed to watch what else this little guy could do.

Due to Eddy's quick development using switches, his teacher and therapists asked if the district would purchase such educational toys for him to use both at school and home. He has nothing at home. I explained that I worked with an exceptionally good director of special education. If they could provide an educational rational she would more than likely approve it. They did, she did and the educational products came last week. I couldn't wait to deliver them.

I took them up last Wednesday; timing it so his PT therapist would be there. Eddy was sitting in his chair when I came in the classroom. I immediately went over to see him and say hello. I believe he recognized my voice, at least I'd like to think that. Since I was playing Santa Claus we moved Eddy over to a table and started unpacking his switches and products. Wouldn't you know they needed batteries. Since everyone was so excited about seeing Eddy work they found batteries.

The box was full of really neat things. There were at least four different types of switches and a variety of animals. We hooked everything up and the PT therapist started working with Eddy. He was down right entertaining. We were able to determine which switches should go home and those that should stay in school. Eddy even selected which animal he liked the most - the kitten that was supposed to meow but barks.

I took pictures and video. We played, oh, I mean we worked, for more than an hour. During that time we were trying to come up with how we were going to explain to Eddy's mother, who only understands Spanish, how to work with him. It was really an easy problem to solve. The school has a translator and I have the means to develop a DVD. So next week we are scheduled to make a DVD for me to deliver with those educational products that are going home.

Our next educational project is to have Eddy work on the computer utilizing switches to activate programs. I can't wait to see that.

I know I've told a nice story but now for the most moving part to me. Eddy's teachers and therapists hold him and move him about without any hesitation. As we were wrapping up Eddy had been sitting on his aide's lap. She suddenly stood up and handed Eddy to me. I took him with my hands under his small armpits and brought him to my lap. That was the first time I had held Eddy.

I announced that to everyone's surprise and mentioned that he might be somewhat startled as I certainly was. Do you know what that sweet little guy did? He rubbed the back of my hand with his tiny little fingers saying he was fine. I held him for a while as everyone else cleaned up our mess.

I can still feel his soft caresses when I think of how he made me feel comfortable with him. What a guy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mystic Seaport Now and Then

As I mentioned in my last Blog, I found the pictures we had taken 38 years ago. They of course had lost quite a bit of color and some were so dark that you couldn't see what was there. I love Photoshop! I was able to bring most of them back to a satisfactory state.

On our second day in Mystic the rain and clouds had disappeared. It was a beautiful day, somewhat cool but not uncomfortable. Again we had a late start to the day so our destination was for the main parking lot across from one of the restaurants we had seen, The Latitude.

However on our way we pulled off the road into the parking lot of a small restaurant called The Kitchen or something like that. The view was spectacular. I think we might have been there before that was ever built or it's lost in memory. Take a look.



After admiring the beauty of the foliage we resumed our trek. The Latitude restaurant was a nice place. A little more upgrade than the Ancient Mariner as you can see below.

Relax you won't see any food porn pictures here. Not to say the food wasn't good but let's just say I ordered a lobster roll again. It turns out it was a lobster salad and I couldn't tell if it was real lobster or that fake stuff flavored. Hubby said his clam chowder was good. While we were eating a wedding party came in for their reception.

We headed out to find the entrance into the Mystic Seaport Museum. Turns out it was several blocks down from the restaurant and parking lot.



I'd say Mystic Seaport has come a long way to encourage tourism. Oh, and did I mention there is a cost factor involved. I can't recall if we had to pay back in '72. In the reception building we were provided a colorful map with identifiable exhibits of importance.

Once on the other side of this indoor/outdoor museum we headed for the Morgan whaling ship that has been in dry dock since 1972 or '73. I thought back in '72 that we had toured it while it was still in the water. Evidently not.

The exhibit of wood being used in the renovation of the ship below was very interesting.

Aboard the ship we wandered around for a bit then returned to the entrance level. A museum staff member provided more insight as to methods and procedures that were used to catch and store the whales.

The Crew's Quarters

Below deck

Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned was that sea worms feasted on the wooden bottom of the ships. Never even knew there were sea worms. See that's why I really don't like the ocean - no one ever knows what lies beneath the surface.

We left the Morgan to see what else was still left over from 1972 and what was new. It was a beautiful sunny day, not too cold and not too hot. There were dirt roads that weaved throughout the village and a horse and buggy ride was available. We walked.

As we passed one of the ship building buildings we saw something from the past.

We rounded the building and in the distance we saw a familiar sight, the L.A. Dunton tall ship. Now I do remember seeing that 38 years ago. I'm wondering however if the sea worms have gotten to it's hull and they've had to fix it.

It was a beautiful sight. We boarded and walked around for a few minutes then back onto the path along the river.

Then we came upon one of my favorite pictures.

To me that image truly represents a New England seaport.

We ended our day with two last stops. Note the change in this re-visited sight.



Our parting scene.

It was a wonderful weekend trip.

Oh, and you might ask what did we do at night. Hmm...something they didn't have 38 years ago. We visited the casinos and yes we won enough to play but not enough to bring any money home. Breaking even isn't all that bad especially when you're having fun.
Mystic Seaport 2011 calendar
Mystic Seaport 2011 by Firecrackinmama
Calendars are 50% off now. Naturally I had to buy one of Mystic Seaport and have it hanging right next to me.

Then with such a beautiful image of the tall ship I had to design an iPad cover.

Off to do more with my images.

Have a Firecrackin Great Day!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mystic Seaport 38 Years Later

For my birthday hubby decided to give me a weekend getaway to a place we visited 38 years ago, Mystic Seaport. Talk about changing. Not only have we changed but Mystic Seaport ain't what it used to be either. Like where's the sign?

I kept looking for the sign but...

we never found it.

For those who are not familiar with Mystic Seaport the settlers found a proverbial seaport gold mine there. The good wood, sheltered water and flat land made it ideal for shipbuilding. Two ship yards from the 1800's operated on the present museum site. Shipbuilding waned however in the 1880's leading to the rise oof textile mills and other manufacturing. The acres that are now Mystic Seaport only had a row of houses along Greenmanville Avenue and a few shipyard and mill buildings.

The Mystic Seaport Museum itself was founded in 1929 to actively pursue the collection, preservation and exhibition of artifacts and skills related to maritime history and its influence on American life. It is privately operated through a non-profit organization. Hubby was first introduced to the vacation spot by his family.

Anyhow we escaped to Mystic for a weekend and had a fabulous time. Hubby had planned everything. It rained the whole trip up to Mystic making our trip through New York a hairy adventure. However once we arrived at our destination the rain had subsided quite a bit.

We stayed at a Marriott Residential Hotel/Motel that was right in between Mystic Seaport and Old Mystic. Wow, what a great place to stay. I always get up before hubby and love to have my coffee and check out my online adventures. However when we stay in a motel I have to be extremely quiet and utilize my night vision so as not to wake or disturb him. Well, take a look at our digs here.

Not too shabby eh? There was even a flat screen TV in the bedroom. After soaking in our accommodations and cleaning up a bit we took off on our first stop. You can read about it at:

Our day wasn't over after the cider mill, not by a long shot. Hubby had planned for us to visit the Foxwood Casino. He had shown me pictures of the place which were absolutely beautiful. We had two sets of directions: those from Mapquest and of course my GDS. We used the GDS. Maybe we should have used the Mapquest. Talk about hilly narrow back roads. Well, you haven't seen anything like that until you travel these Connecticut roads. We found Foxwood out in the middle of nowhere. It was grandiose that's for sure.

We went in and got our cards without any problems. Since we were hungry and Hardrock was right in front of us, we ate there. After that we pursued our dreams of winning. Well, at least one of us won :). I even won enough so that we could return the next night and play at the MGM Grand!

Our next day we headed to Old Mystic. The rain was gone but not the clouds. Since we didn't get off until around noon, we looked for some place to eat lunch. Oh, I forgot we had homemade cider donuts for breakfast. Somehow we lucked out and pulled right into the only gigantic parking lot in town. The man at the toll house recommended a place right around the corner to eat.

Being in New England there was only one food on my mind, lobster. It was a cozy place and the atmosphere was definitely seafare.

We sat by the front window and watched as people passed. While I was set on having lobster, hubby was set on having clam chowder. The food was delicious and pleasantly served. Take a gander at this food porn.
Hubby said it was delicious. I ordered a lobster roll for lunch but clams casino for an appetizer. Oh, my mouth is watering now for some more of that.
It was every bit as good as it looks. Our entrees were excellent.
Although prime rib and garlic potatoes are an ordinary meal my lobster roll was anything but ordinary.
Real 100% lobster was in that roll. Oh, and note the malt vinegar that I was to put on my "chips". Yo, where's the ketchup. Well, you know how the saying goes, "When in Rome...". So I did when in Mystic do as the Mystic's do. I was quite surprised that the malt vinegar did enhance the taste of the "chips". The lobster roll could not have been better.

We left the Ancient Mariner to see Old Mystic. It's not really all that different from other shore towns except there were no beaches. We were both fascinated by the bridge though.
Now you don't see a bridge like that too often. Look at those concrete blocks that are lowered in order to open the bridge! We walked to the middle of the bridge to view Mystic River. Very nice.
Those are condominiums with docks and boats at the front doors. You might think you were in Venice or not.

We walked down to the end of a dock along the opposite side of the condos to get a better look at the bridge.

While standing on the dock hubby happened to see the C.W. Morgan across the water at Mystic Seaport.

Apparently the C.W. Morgan is an ancient whaling ship that has been placed in dry dock for restoration since 1973. That's only a year after our first visit. I have no memory of it at all. It's open as one of the exhibits at Mystic Seaport. You can read about our day there in my next Blog.

After doing all this walking and visiting the many stores in town hubby was ready for some dessert. He had spotted this place and pointed it out to me right before we crossed the bridge.

Obviously this time of year it was not crowded. We went in to order but the flavors listed made it difficult to decide.
We finally placed our orders and promptly entered into conversation about making homemade ice cream. The owner was very nice. He doesn't use eggs in his ice cream. We still aren't sure what he does use in place of them. The ice cream is made right there on the premises. Now I know I'm going to get this wrong but I believe he said he might make up to 160 gallons of ice cream a week or was it a day during the summer. I'm sure hubby will set me straight on this and I'll have to re-visit my Blog to correct the statistics. Anyhow he makes a lot. I was going to try and persuade the owner to show us where he made the ice cream but more customers came in.

We finished our ice cream and headed on back towards the parking lot. Right before we turned down the street to the lot hubby spotted:

Mystic Pizza

That night we headed back to the MGM Grand at Foxwoods. It was another good night for me and hubby didn't do that bad either.

Tomorrow is Mystic Seaport.

We got some great pictures while we were there. So when I got home I searched through our many albums to see what pictures we had taken 38 years ago. You may be surprised.

This was one of our recent pictures that I really like.

For now have a Firecrackin Great Day!