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Lifestyle HUMOR from The Rebel Housewife: Anecdotes, observations, experiences
On LIFE AT 30 & BEYOND: kids, family, men, BOOKS, cars, pets, tattoos...NASCAR, Aspergers/Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Virtual/Home Schooling, teenagers, Navy Mom...




Friday
Apr172015

Rebel Review Classic: Family Travel


Preparing for new Summer Travel Adventures & Explorations in 2015, with the second teenager leaving home for college (Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA!), the oldest serving the U.S. Navy in Guam, and one teenager still at home and in the backseat, ready for adventure, here's a hit of nostalgia... enjoy!

Family Fun Challenge: How much fun can one family of five discover in two days at Stone Mountain Park?

[Qualifier: Over a busy holiday weekend?]

Summary judgment by Tiger, who turned six during this adventure:

“It was AWESOME!!!”


This year for 4th of July (and Tiger's birthday!), we decided to forego the traffic and crowds downtown Atlanta and go out to Stone Mountain for fireworks. It turned out to be the perfect choice, since the Stone Mountain Park Fantastic Fourth Celebration begins on July 1st and carries through four nights to the Grand Celebration on the 4th.

Little did we know, July 4th is one of the most popular days at Stone Mountain Park (SMP), with 50,000 to 75,000 (yes, THOUSAND!) people showing up each year for the wildly popular Lasershow & Fireworks Spectacular. (My thanks to Christine Parker, Public Relations Manager at SMP, for educating me!) If you like crowds, and have the patience and sense of adventure to go early, wait through traffic and long lines, and thrive on a frenetic festival atmosphere, elbow-to-elbow (or worse!) with tens of thousands of people...by all means, go and enjoy!

It's a nice option, for the more crowd-averse types, to go on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd -- same fun, less crowded. We decided to enjoy the park and fireworks on the 3rd, stay overnight to celebrate Tiger's birthday on the 4th, and watch the crowds come in...on our way out!

As I mentioned in UPDATE to Top 10: Fun w/Kids in ATLANTA, Stone Mountain Park is very different from the sleepy state park it used to be. There are now more than a dozen family attractions, a new Ride The Ducks amphibious sightseeing tour, and a daily schedule of activities, shows and events.

I started out strong, in typical Type A fashion, schedule in hand, and planned the day to include all the shows running during this summer's Stone Mountain Park Extreme Summer Adventure, including The Fabulous Wallendas Family Thrill Show and The Schmackos(TM) Extreme Canines Show. There are several 10 - 15 minute comedy and magic shows, storytimes, singalongs, and even a Talking Fountain on the schedule. We wouldn't want to miss anything!

Family Fun Tip #1 - Give up TYPE A!


There's no way to do it all in one day, or probably even in a week (which makes those Stone Mountain Membership Annual Passes such a wonderful thing), but I didn't know that at the time. Old habits are hard to give up! If you try to map it all out and stick to a rigid schedule, nobody is going to have any fun.

We did need to schedule to Ride The Ducks(TM), which is a separately-ticketed attraction, so we did that first, making reservations for our land & water adventure later in the afternoon (when it would be cooler) on the advice of the attendant. (We really had no idea what "Ride The Ducks" was -- more later!)

After that, we gave up the schedule and let the kids lead the way. Looking at the list of Attractions in the Stone Mountain Park guidebook, we managed to see and do 8 of the 15 Attractions (in bold below), and Ride The Ducks, during our day-and-a-half, and we had a really great time -- "AWESOME!" as Tiger says:

Stone Mountain Park Family Fun Attractions:

  1. Antebellum Plantation & Farmyard
  2. Antique Car & Treasure Museum
  3. CROSSROADS - Spent all our time here!
  4. Discovering Stone Mountain Museum
  5. The Great Barn - Indoor family challenge, FUN!!
  6. Lasershow Spectacular - INCREDIBLE (always is)
  7. Mini-Golf
  8. Paddlewheel Riverboat - We rode the hotel's water ferry instead
  9. Pedal Boats
  10. Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad - An old favorite
  11. Summit Skyride - Rainstorm at the top of the mountain!
  12. Talking Fountain - Any opportunity to get wet!
  13. Tall Tales of the South 4D Theater - Cooldown
  14. Treehouse Challenge - MOST FAVORITE ATTRACTION!!!
  15. Waterslide Complex
BONUS: Camp Highland Outpost - An extreme obstacle course!

The Treehouse Challenge was so much fun, we could have enjoyed a whole day just at the one attraction. Seriously, the kids didn't want to leave! Fortunately, there is plenty of shaded seating for the adults to wait (when you are done playing). On our second time at Treehouse Challenge, we even discovered a wading area in the corner, with a cool, clean, running 'creek' and large faux-rocks to sit on for the kids (and adults) to take off their shoes and cool down a bit. That's good, because it gets HOT, anywhere in Atlanta, during the summer.

Family Fun Tip #2 - Every opportunity to COOL DOWN!


Stone Mountain Park offers many opportunities to get wet and cool down, from large, crowd fan-misters to spouting fountains and sidewalks to wading pools to water rides and attractions. Carry a cooler with ice and cold drinks, wear swimming suits and water-friendly shoes -- we've found CROCS are the best, for running around dry, wet or both.

Our next opportunity to COOL DOWN was on Ride The Ducks, which is, quite literally, a "hoot" -- actually, a "quack" since they give everyone a yellow duck kazoo (free souveneir!)[You will want to get rid of these immediately after the adventure!] and encourage quacking and lead "quack-alongs" to popular songs during the journey, which is a sightseeing tour by land and (quite abruptly!) on water in an amphibious vehicle. Very James Bond, in a southern (Deliverance, anyone?) kind of way.

After Ride The Ducks, we had the obligatory family breakdown of tempers and whining when everyone got tired and hungry.

Family Fun Tip #3 - Make The Decision!


I'm surprised it has taken me this long to learn this, but you've absolutely got to have a decision-maker in the family. Democracy does not work with kids -- it only opens up the Pandora's Box of discussion and oppositional obstinacy, especially if everybody is tired and hungry. Make the decision and go with it!

We had a surprisingly (for theme park fast food) delicious chicken dinner at the train depot, and managed to regroup enough to catch the last train ride around the mountain before the Lasershow.

Family Fun Tip #5 - SMP Lasershow Spectacular!


Even not on holiday weekends, it's usually crowded, which is fun, but requires some planning ahead. Go to Memorial Lawn early and stake out your space: Leave your blanket and/or camp chairs (now highly recommended since everybody else brings them and you can't see very well laying on a blanket behind rows and rows of camp chairs). You can leave your site and enjoy the attractions or hike the mountain. The only trick is finding your spot again several hours later, in the sea of people, blankets, chairs, coolers (allowed!), and vendors. (You can buy, and your children will want, anything and everything from food & drink to a variety of toys that buzz, whine, flash and glow in the dark...)

The Laser Lightshow was especially spectacular for the 4th of July celebration (on the 3rd), with tons of fireworks at the end. The kids, even after such a long day, were completely captivated and LOVED it!

After the show, we waited patiently for the shuttle bus to the hotel. By the time we got to our room, everyone was exhausted, and we all went to sleep right away.

The Marriott Evergreen Conference Resort at Stone Mountain is beautiful, tucked away in the trees on the other side of the lake. With the Marriott service, quality, comfort and attention to detail, we could have stayed on the hotel property the entire time to lounge by the pool and enjoy the amenities, but it wasn't to be this time -- too much to see and do! The hotel accommodations, and the warmth and friendliness of the staff, from the doormen, to the front desk staff, to Brenda & Lubindo in the restaurant, were fantastic!

We enjoyed a fabulous buffet breakfast in the dining room the next morning. They went the extra mile to make it special for Tiger's birthday and surprised us with a special waffle-cake, with whipped cream, strawberries and chocolate sauce. And we were off--

Back to Crossroads and The Great Barn, which is a really fun indoor game the whole family can enjoy. By noon, it was time to go, as those 50,000 to 75,000 people started filling up the park.

Stone Mountain Park was the perfect overnight getaway for our 4th of July/Birthday Celebration. There were no crowds or lines on the 3rd, much like most of the year at SMP. We still felt like we missed a lot -- simply can't do it all -- so we are looking forward to visiting again, and often throughout the year ahead -- there is always something going on at Stone Mountain!

Thursday
Apr092015

Autism Awareness: 250 Words

This is Our Autism (in 150 words):


Our 14-year-old son was diagnosed with Asperger’s/Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was nine years old. Our Autism is a Superpower, although it definitely has its (social, sensory and communication) challenges.

Our son is brilliant, but quirky; interesting and extraordinary. He has a great sense of humor, but he is very shy. He is a techie genius--loves computers, technology, programming and video games, and lights up about his strengths and interests. He is extremely helpful with anything computer-related.

We worry about our Autism future and independence. The world does not always appreciate quirky. We know, with the right encouragement, resources and support, with a pathway, our son will be completely self-sufficient. We know he fits in the tech world, that he will be happy and productive in a technical, creative environment.

We often worry about how to help him get there.

99(+1) Words about LiveCode, Indiegogo and Empowering Autism Through Coding:


THIS. This is what we need, for our techies with Autism: LiveCode, with support from international autism organizations, will provide an extensive online training program to help young adults on the autism spectrum develop employment skills in programming.

I encourage anyone to consider this worthy project for donation to support Autism. Please share the message and encourage your friends, family and network to get involved. Contribute and participate, if you have or know a young person on/near the autism spectrum. $99 is a very small contribution toward independence.

(Thanks!)

Also see: CNNMoney: Teaching Autistic Kids to Code
Thursday
Apr092015

Autism Awareness - For My Teenager

Autism Awareness - For My Teenager
by Sherri Caldwell - Asperger's Parent, Author and Learning Coach

I am Aware. As a teacher, as a writer and researcher, as Mom to a brilliant 14-year-old son diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome six years ago (now included as an Autism Spectrum Disorder/ASD), I am hyper-aware of the differences, challenges, and unique blessings of Autism. It is a vast spectrum of ability and disability, and there is enormous controversy and fierce debate within the Autism community, and those trying to help. I am Aware.

At first, I didn’t understand how closely we were aligned with the members of the Autism community. After the initial four-year struggle through public school, after a cursory diagnosis of ADHD and two years testing medications and behavioral strategies, none of which worked to resolve anxiety, frustration, regressive communication and social skills, and spectacular school-day-ending meltdowns... after all of that, my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Boom.

“Is that a degenerative condition?”
We naively and fearfully asked, when it was first suggested by the school psychologist, after several years of exhaustive evaluation. I think she may have mentioned it was on the Autistic Spectrum, but at the time, the roaring of the ocean in my head drowned out everything else, along with any clear memory of the other details of that meeting. From there, I started researching. I read everything I could get my hands, library access or internets on about Asperger’s Syndrome, and how this fit my son, how it explained so much, and how it changed our lives, as we came to understand our brilliant, but quirky and extraordinary kid.

Six years later, our then-little third grader is a six-foot, fourteen-year-old ninth grader in high school. He has been in and out of public and private schools, both traditional brick and mortar and virtual public charter school online at home. He has done well-- he is an A/B student, but he does not like school. Our current educational system, even with Special Education and IEP/504 services, does not have the flexibility, understanding, training, resources or support to help these amazing kids succeed on their own terms, embracing their tremendous strengths and abilities.

In many ways, we celebrate Asperger's/ASD as a Superpower. This kid is scary smart: technical, logical, detail-oriented, he is amazing on the computer and with anything to do with technology. He is a gamer, of course. He has a great sense of humor, an insatiable curiosity, intense focus and fascination with a wide variety of topics, especially technology. He interacts online with friends and acquaintances all over the world. He likes structure and routine, he likes peace and quiet, and while he generally prefers to be safe at home, he will venture out for family adventures and activities. He likes going out for meals, and road trips, and he really, really likes vacations on big cruise ships. In his element, I tend to forget about the Asperger’s, what some people call High-Functioning Autism. But it only takes a few minutes in the confusion and chaos of the outside world, for his differences, his anxiety and communication challenges, to become painfully obvious. This is Autism, out in the real world.

This is his future. We know our child has the potential for independent living; he will be fine, on his own terms. But with structured support and training in an area in which he is truly gifted and highly interested—he could be the next Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, the Facebook guy or Elon Musk. He is a techie geek with some social deficits.

What my son -- and others like him -- needs to succeed, to find his passion, develop his career possibilities, and achieve happiness and independence, is an opportunity to learn valuable skills in a supportive environment, structured to embrace his strengths.

We have an amazing opportunity to provide job skills, career potential and future independence in a highly supportive environment, with the technology company Live Code and their April 2015 Indiegogo campaign, Empower Individuals With Autism Through Coding:
Together with LiveCode, the National Autistic Society, Specialisterne & Autism Initiatives, our goal is to train 3000 young adults on the autism spectrum, across the world, how to code. We will provide an extensive training program with specialist support to help these young adults develop employment skills or gain self-employment in the app business.

I hope you will join me in supporting Empowering Autism Through Coding in every way you can: by donating to support Autism; by sharing the message and encouraging your friends, family, and network to get involved; by participating, if you have or know a young person on/near the Autism Spectrum.



Thursday
Apr092015

Asperger's Syndrome & A New Normal (2010)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Logging into my blog account today, I was shocked to discover...
it has been many weeks, months, in fact, since I have finished and published a blog article on RebelHousewife.com. Oh, I've started many thoughts, on paper, on post-its, in my head, in TextEdit and Word. There are several waiting patiently on the blog as "unpublished" -- wonderful starts about kids, Aspergers Syndrome, homeschooling (kind of), the teenager, the learner's permit (driving?!) and banishing the XBOX 360 from our home. There are others about books, events, recipes and cost-cutting strategies for family financial survival in tough times.

I seem to have a problem, of late, finishing what I start. I've never been a non-closer before and yet here I am...

It has been an eventful couple of months.

I actually logged on today to write a thought about Iceland and Vanity Fair and NPR, volcanoes and economic meltdowns and such, only to make this horrifying discovery. I am going to finish this, and fix the Twitter link on the website and then maybe I can get back to that thought about Iceland...

And maybe that's the answer. Why can't I finish anything I start lately? Maybe it's because, every time I start something, something else comes along to take my attention and focus. The constant distractions of life with a busy entrepreneurial husband, three children and Mocha-the-dog. I don't work outside the home. I can't imagine how I would. We no longer have the big house or yard to manage, having downsized to our midtown condo and our one-mile live-work-school-play radius (and loving it!). What excuse could I possibly have to be such a slacker?

We started this school year with three kids in three different schools: 15yo Puberty Angst Boy in 9th grade at the high school; 12yo Drama Queen in 7th grade at the middle school; and 9yo ADHD Phenom started the year in 4th grade at the brand-new elementary school.

Ah, there's another clue to what's happened: Turns out, our very bright, very ACTIVE 9yo ADHD Phenom is not ADHD at all (okay, well, that's a whole 'nother start that I do need to finish, kind of controversial). He has Asperger's Syndrome, which is high-functioning Autism, so he is our 9yo Aspy Phenom. Not a lot of people know what that is, or have any idea what Asperger's Syndrome is (we didn't), so I have some explaining and education to do on that point, I know.

But before I can explain, educate or crusade for a better understanding of Asperger's Syndrome, I needed to understand it better myself and live with it for a while.

* * An aside: If you are at all interested in Asperger's Syndrome, please read the wonderful letter Especially for Grandparents of Children With Asperger Syndrome by Nancy Mucklow. It is appropriate and highly relevant for anybody close to or in the life of a child diagnosed with Asperger's.

So what happened next: In January, we brought the 9yo Aspy Phenom home. The brand-new public school was on a shake-down cruise, getting all of their new-school processes, programs and procedures worked out. We were on our own shake-down cruise, trying to figure out and adjust to this new information and really-quite-remarkable aspect of our son -- finally, we had understandings and strategies that were actually working and helping him, whereas the ADD strategies -- including the medication he was on for more than two years -- never served him well. The school couldn't keep up, couldn't meet his needs academically or provide the structure and stability he needed.

He now attends school from home, although he is not technically a "home schooler." We enrolled him in 4th grade in the Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA), an online public charter school supported by the Georgia Department of Education. As a public school, the schedule and curriculum is established and GCA provided everything we need to attend school from home: books, workbooks, novels, math manipulatives, even all of the materials needed for science experiments! We have a teacher we work with, mostly online, who monitors progress and administers his IEP (yet another complicated issue for another time). We have an abundance of opportunities for social interaction, with field trips and meet-ups and activities all over, all the time.

And there it is: I haven't been able to finish a thought in months, or devote the time I used to have to lose myself in reading, researching, writing, reviewing or blogging, because I am teaching and experiencing the 4th grade all over again with my 9yo Aspy Phenom. It has been amazing -- not EASY, as this has been a HUGE adjustment for both of us and for the entire family. It has been a very challenging transition, but worth it to have the time and opportunity to work with and get to know this brilliant child.

Now then, that's not such a bad reason to be a slacker, after all.
I'm glad I was able to finish that thought.
I am hoping there will be more!
Monday
Feb092015

101 Sexy & Fun Love Notes - FREE eBook (until 2/15/15)!

On the occasion of Valentine’s Day 2015 and the launch of a new ebook series:
The Rebel Housewife: Survival Guides (Surviving Happily Ever After!) with
101 Sexy & Fun Love Notes:
Romantic Tips & Tricks to FIRE UP the Passion & Romance in Your Relationship!


* * * Available FREE on Amazon Kindle, beginning Tue, Feb 10th – Sat, Feb 14th * * *



Well, with all THAT going on, it has given me pause to reflect on love and romance and relationships... and marriage. It seems incredible and weird and unbelievable that I can say: Prince Charming and I have been married for TWENTY-SIX years -- wow -- and still going strong!

Yes, we started off very, very young: I was just 20 and he was 22. It doesn't even seem like that could be possible, then or now -- we're still way too young to be married that long, unruly silver hair (mine) and the accumulation of love and good food (about 20lbs for both of us), notwithstanding.

I have been married now for longer than I was not.

In the beginning, I was the Other Girl and he was the Wrong Boy -- according to my mother, anyway. I liked the motorcycle and his 'Bohemian' lifestyle (living on ramen and mac & cheese on his buddies' laundry porch -- one guy lived on the pool table). We quickly disentangled ourselves from other relationships in the face of destiny and enjoyed our very own Summer of Love after my high school graduation in 1985. I was very young, at 17, and it took me a year or two to settle down and commit to monogamy long-term, with enough first-year-college experience and variety to know he was The One. I never expected it to happen so early, but we both just knew (and we were right!).

We married on August 6, 1988, in a garden courtyard on a threatening-to-be-rainy day at our beloved Manor Farm Inn in Poulsbo, Washington, and the Adventure(s) began...

More than a quarter-century and three nearly-grown children later, it still seems so new, to my constant amazement. We still love each other, more every day, and we still like each other, too. I keep thinking, twenty-five-plus years into this, I should have some wisdom, the benefit of happily-ever-after experience, advice to share; besides, you know, marry young and basically Imprint on each other.

People ask us the secret to a long and happy relationship?

For us, it's all about new Adventures and the appreciation of Magical Moments; to create a life in which there are many of each. It keeps us together, always wondering (in a good way): What's next?!

As for advice, back to basics, the foundation:
The Rebel Housewife: Survival Guides (Surviving Happily Ever After!)
101 Sexy & Fun Love Notes:
Romantic Tips & Tricks to FIRE UP the Passion & Romance in Your Relationship
.

* * * Available FREE on Amazon Kindle, beginning Tue, Feb 10th – Sat, Feb 14th * * *

"The 101 Love Notes in this ebook are 'quickie' ideas -- fun, easy, realistic, and, in most cases, FREE!!! -- a starting place to spark your sexy, tickle your imagination and creativity, rev up your sense of fun and adventure, and help you develop, with your lover, a lifestyle of romance and passion."

Whether you've been together two years, or twenty, or just starting out, 101 Sexy & Fun Love Notes has something for everyone.

Please take advantage of the Valentine's Day Launch Promotion and download the ebook FREE on Amazon Kindle, February 10th - 14th. (If you don't have a Kindle, you can download a FREE Kindle Reader App for your computer, tablet, or smartphone on Amazon -- a link to do that is at the top of the 101 Sexy & Fun Love Notes page on Amazon.)

Read, enjoy, have fun -- freely share this article, or the Facebook posts and Tweets that will be coming out over the next few days, for Valentine's Day -- and, if you would, please take the time to rate the ebook and write a little review on Amazon.com. That would be AWESOME.

Live, Love, Laugh & LIGHT IT UP -- HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!!



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