Saturday, May 30, 2009

His Mysterious Ways

If you haven't met me maybe you don't know that I am, and have been for a very long time, a Christian. I tell you this because we subscribed to the well known Christian magazine "Guideposts" for years. Each month they would have an article titled "Mysterious Ways" about someone who had been touched by God's hand to do something.

This happened recently to me.

A friend called Sunday very upset. Vandals had come through their neighborhood on Saturday night and, using a pipe or bat, beat in windshields on cars. She had been hit and now her car was undriveable.

My friend was frustrated because she would have to miss a day's work to take care of the windshield which she could ill afford. But things went from bad to worse the next day when she discovered she had missed a payment to the insurance company so they denied her claim and cancelled her coverage. When I called to check on her that late that afternoon I could tell she was struggling. After we talked I phoned my husband. Bob always keeps a cool head and his common sense as well as work experience tends to give him amazing suggestions as well as contacts. When he got home he said he was sure the windshield could be replaced fairly reasonably but it might be a challenge to drive the car to one of the companies.

We decided my friend needed some moral support and Bob wanted to see if he might be able to drive the car so we drove over to her house. I looked in my cupboard and found my "rainy day" stash of $100 and stuck it in my pocket. By the time we got to my friend's house it was nearly eight. Bob took a look at the windshield and then headed in the house asking for the phone book. Sitting down at the table he began leafing through it. While he was doing so, I visited with my friend and discovered that she had found a new insurance company that she could sign up with the next day but that the unexpected expense would pretty much tap her dry. She didn't know what to do.

The next thing I knew Bob had pulled out his phone and was calling a company. "It's 8:00," I said. "Who can you reach at this hour?"

To my surprise someone answered the phone. They talked a few minutes and he hung up. "The company will send someone out tomorrow morning and replace your windshield at the house for $99." I reached in my pocket. It was amazing. I had exactly enough.

My friend was so relieved. She would not miss another day's work.

On the drive home Bob and I were talking about how we both had expected the windshield to cost much closer to $150 or $200. Then as we were nearing home it began to rain. My rainy day fund was being used on a rainy day.

What a coincidence. Or was it Providence?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Travel Day

Up early this morning to catch a ride to the airport. One of the strictest airports we have visited in the US is Raleigh. They seem to follow all the FAA rules to a T. Today there was a woman with a small child and some of those tiny juice boxes. The rules allow for babies and milk but apparently juice boxes are suspect… After I got my shoes back on they were still trying to decide whether or not to let the juice through. Of course, it would be okay for this mom to buy juice at an exorbitant price on the other side of the screeners.

But I promised more today than the usual flight information.

If you are reading this most likely you remember the Kool-Aid commercials where all the neighborhood kids would be out playing and one mom would pop out calling, “Who wants Kool-Aid?” Then all the kids would cheer and run to that house. Everyone wanted to have the cool “Kool-Aid” mom. Well, I think I saw her in action this weekend. All the kids want to go to the Weiss house. That’s where the fun is…even if Kathy isn’t offering Kool-Aid. But what we got to see during our visit was that it’s not only Kathy but also Mike who makes this a great family. I know Kathy has told me before that they rarely use a babysitter…if they can’t take the kids along they generally stay home. There is a lot of love in that house and they enjoy being a family. What a great home to grow up in.

7:00 pm AZ time: Home again, home again, jiggedy jig. After a long day flying we are again in our own home. Both cats were puffed up like blow fish when we walked in. It took them a half hour to remember who we are. I expect they will be racing around tonight after sleeping the past week. We are still on Eastern time so it’s off to baths and then to bed. Tomorrow will be soon enough to catch up with everything.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day 7 of a Super Vacation!

Raleigh, NC almost 9pm EDT Last day of vacation. We were sad to say goodbye to the Weiss family. But the kids there still have school so they were up and off on the school bus early this morning. I have to tell you that they live less than a quarter mile from the school…maybe less than that. But PA law says that no kids can walk to school so the bus comes to pick them up for the two minute ride. While it seems pretty silly I am sure there are good safety reasons. I will write more about our action filled weekend in PA maybe tomorrow on the plane.

Anyway, back to our day. Today we decided to avoid the DC area and its traffic and come down the old road US 15. The good thing was that we were able to visit James Madison’s museum. I was right when I guess that he was our 4th president. We also learned that he and Monroe were good friends. It seems somewhere in my brain I also knew that he was cousin to Zachary Taylor…but apparently it maybe not so important file in my brain. Because Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution we picked up a copy of the constitution for a friend (who shall remain nameless) who has a bumper sticker on her car declaring we should “Legalize the Constitution.” One thing I realized while driving through this area is that we need to come back and spend time just visiting the presidential homes and museums. We were close to so many this week. Ah, another vacation to plan.

Today it rained almost all day. The only plus is that we were spending most of the day driving. I think we were lucky that the weather has been beautiful every other day during this trip. Taking the interior highway was really interesting. You can tell it followed the old road because every town was 10-20 miles apart…we figured that must be a day’s travel on horseback. Most of the road was two-lane which made it much slower than the interstate yet we probably drove 100 miles because it was a straight line. It was probably a wash in total time. We were able to see many plantations and other large farms mostly in Northern Virginia. The southern part of the state was much more rural and you might be surprised that there were lots of pine tree stands. Actually, we noticed how much “unfilled” space there is, even along the East Coast where we tend to thinks it’s just one giant city.

Rebecca’s Perspective… I’ve been deciding how much rain is a tolerable amount. Being born and raised an Arizonan, I’ve always found extra rain exciting, but a full day’s worth like today? That seemed like quite a lot to be a regular occurrence…

I’m starting to miss the Weiss family already! We managed to pack so much action into such a short time. If only I could travel a few thousand miles to babysit the “Weisslettes,” they are the some of the best children out there.

I’ve also been thinking about what the most exciting part of this trip has been, and after a bit of thought, I think it was the fact that I could spend the whole thing Out Side. It was wonderful! The weather has been beautiful (even with the driving rain today.) and I could even work on a tan :) Definitely different from Arizona!

As Mom mentioned, we made it to James Madison’s museum, and ended up passing by Monticello. We took a little country highway that was often only two-laned… while we did seem to go a bit slower, we also saw a lot of country side.

Well, dearest readers, we are heading back to Phoenix mere hours from now. It has been fun blogging our vacation, hope you enjoyed!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day 6 of a Super Vacation!

Day … Something.
Rebecca’s perspective… Memorial Day 9:00 pm Whoa! Action packed days, these were… We started off at the Weiss family church, St. John Lutheran, and were just in time for the service. We enjoyed a lovely day afterward; once lunch was had we headed to Gettysburg! The history was interesting, yet as every bit started to come to life, it became even more unbelievable. We came home from dinner, and while everyone was tired, no one was quite ready to stop socializing… as you might expect.

Today was wonderful as well. Daphne and her mom were in a Memorial Day Parade as representative Girl Scouts, which was very exciting for us all. The short parade was filled with regional charm. We all enjoyed going out on a pontoon boat on a nearby lake for a few hours before returning for a barbecue! You wouldn’t believe the steak, it was great. Neighbors were met, as well as their cows. The nearest neighbors raised cattle and had a few John Deere tractors, and both Matthew and Dad were pretty jealous. The next thing we did was set off bunches of fireworks! I realize now why they’re illegal in Arizona…. They would probably set the whole desert on fire by just setting off one.

Our visit comes to a close… we’re leaving tomorrow for Raleigh and for Phoenix early Wednesday morning…

We packed a lot in our time with the Weiss family. There is so much to see and do here. And what beautiful weather! I told Bob that we will not like returning to the heat of the desert Wednesday. But tomorrow we will go back to NC--I am thinking we might be able to stop at at least one president's home on the way.

There are many tales to tell (Kathy is spilling family secrets as I write) but they will have to wait at least one more day.

Day 5 of a Super Vacation!

What a great day! We tried to surprise our friends by meeting at their church in York, PA. Due to good gps navigation we made it in time but only half their family were there due to a sick kid. Still getting to worship in their church and listen to their pastor has given us a better insight to why they drive past umpteen churches to get to theirs.

We returned to their home to see the rest of the family and note: to those who requested...hugs all around have been shared :)

After visiting and some lunch it was decided we should visit Gettysburg. None of our family have been there before. More impressive than me seeing where the battles took place was watching and listening to all the people sharing heartfelt accounts of the details. The Civil War might have been over 100 years ago but you could still hear the emotion--

We visited some of the town curio shops and got to watch a short reenactment of one battle. Matthew got a real kick out of the guys firing their rifles. He was especially glad when those shot got back up and "survived".

I will write more later about our friends--and include pictures. But now we are heading off to a Memorial Day parade which will feature the local Girl Scout troup and our friend Daphne.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day 4 of a Super Vacation!

5:51 EST (Rebecca’s perspective) Jet lag must be catching up to me. We’re in Raleigh, a mere hour away from picking up my dad at the airport, but only 15 minutes of travel time. We spent most of the day driving around, first to Raleigh to see my older cousin Josh, and after to rid ourselves of errands before picking up my dad. There is a gluten free bakery here done by Whole Foods, so after lunch that was the first of our stops. Would you believe, we found gluten free cupcakes?! Trust me, Mom and Matthew were beyond excited. As was I. Which means I need to eat one soon so they don’t disappear on me… After a few more stops, we had extra time and decided to find a local library, in hopes of wasting time with free wifi. My GPS led us up and down small roads and through neighborhoods (I’ve found that the larger houses in Morehead City were a bit ostentatious… there are some other, less grandiose mansions in Raleigh in which I may reside) We didn’t ever find the supposed library, but we did walk around the block, admiring many magnolia trees and old houses. Still suffering from multiple sun burns and jet lag, the three of us are quite tired and ready for a siesta. But alas, traveling awaits us… Mom would like to make it past Washington DC tonight, a mere 266 miles away. We’ll see where we end up!

Sat PM...not as late as it seems... Had a great lunch with my sister and BOTH her boys. She smartly recommended we all drive up early to Raleigh and catch up with Josh. She was going to give him reprieve from the summer session and a ride home for the holiday weekend.

We ended up with just a short time before Bob’s flight. I thought we might find a library or park to visit while we waited so we followed the gps instructions down through Raleigh. That’s where I almost made a major faux pas… “There’s a nice park,” I pointed to Rebecca. We slowed down at the gated entrance.
“How beautiful,” she agreed. “Let’s go there.” I was just about to turn in when she spotted the house (no really it was a mansion). Yikes, we were about to run around in somebody’s front yard! So we didn’t quite find a park…but we did find McDonald's which served us just fine.

Bob’s flight was even a few minutes early so we got off to a good start. He hopped in the car and we are now on our way to see those crazy Weiss people. I am not sure where we are tonight. An Econolodge somewhere… All I know is Bob saw the sign that said “Free Breakfast!” and here we are. Tomorrow should be a very eventful day. We are very excited to see our friends.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 3 of a Super Vacation

Day 3in MHC (as the locals call it). We have heard that the weather in Phoenix is almost as nice as it is here. Maybe so, but here they do have the beautiful ocean. We spent time at the beach yesterday. It is so relaxing. Maybe it’s the sound of the never ending waves crashing on the shore. Maybe it’s the fresh breeze that constantly blows or the exercise that you get without realizing it walking along the shore. Whatever it was we all slept well last night.

Today my sister took us out on their boat to a small sand bar that they call Sand Dollar Island. It’s not really an island since it covers completely at high tide. But we were there just at low tide and stayed until the island almost disappeared. On the way we saw a dolphin playing in the water (I think spotting a dolphin means good luck). We found lots of sand dollars and a good variety of shells. Rebecca and cousin Jacob put some effort into dissecting a dead giant jellyfish. The body was the texture of a stale gummy bear. Matthew did amazingly well. I was worried he would be afraid to get into the boat and especially didn’t know if he would jump out of it at the beach. But he did and he had fun. He didn’t get in to the water right away but gradually was more brave. He did have his limits how far away from the “shore” he would go. I’ll not have to worry about him going in to water that is too deep. I have to say that the sun really snuck up on us today. We are all burned. I told Matthew that he should leave his shirt off and let his white stomach get some he has a pink tummy...

But I think the more important story today is about my sister. I have Bob to do all the “manly” things around the house. My sister is a single mom and does whatever needs to be done;today it included hooking up the trailer, driving it down the road and backing it up at the ramp (straight, I might add) just far enough to float the boat. Then, after the rest of us clamber in she drives the boat out to sea. She is teaching my nephew how to drive the boat and all the “rules of the road”, stay between the channel markers, watch for the sand bars, remember the sail boat has right of way and more. It was really amazing watching her resolve, determination and knowledge. In two weeks she and her younger son are coming to AZ and will hike down the Havasaupai trail. Her strength is admirable.

Rebecca’s perspective: Good Ness, it’s 8:47 PM our time, who knew I’d be so tired by now! What a great day; first waking up, I realized immediately how wonderful the day was going to be. Beautiful weather with cheerful moods all around, we got my cousin Jacob out of school (No worries; his class was watching a movie, and he wasn’t about to miss anything productive.) and loaded up the boat to head to Sand Dollar Island! My Aunt Linda and cousin are really good at loading/unloading the boat and driving it around… I wasn’t sure if I should trust my 14 year old cousin’s steering the boat, but he seemed to do pretty well. All but my aunt managed to get sunburned, but let’s hope it turns into a tan soon. We spent hours out in the sun relaxing while searching for sand dollars, unique seashells, and anything else that suited our fancy. Mom and I found a few dead jellyfish, one of which Jacob and I dissected with a shell! (NOTE: No Live Animals Were Killed During the Making of this Blog) His mantle was hard and thick, like the consistency of very thick Jello. We both scooped chunks out, only to find that the insides were watery, nothing exciting.

Mom, Matthew and I did a little exploring yesterday around my aunt’s community. There are some beautiful houses looking out to the ocean, most three stories with many guest rooms! When I become a doctor, I’ll let y’all know where I reside; if I choose the South, there’ll be plenty o’ room for visitors. Y’all come visit for sweet tea, ya hear? :D

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 2 of a Super Vacation

1:18/4:18EST (Rebecca’s Perspective) Man! Already been up for 8 hours, and those Arizonans have only been up for 5 or so. The weather here, specifically Morehead City, NC, is AMAZING. Who wouldn’t want to be up early for it?? And I feel like we’ve done so much! I suppose we haven’t, but one feels accomplished when on vacation, and time is spent outside picking strawberries. And let me tell ya, these are fantastic strawberries. Nothing beats picking them yourself in a bright sunny field where the strawberries are warm and fresh.
After looking in a few stores for specialty foods for Matthew, I’m reminded how much of southern food is fried. Sure, I love it, but it’s definitely not Gluten-free, you know? But we’re looking forward to a wonderful dinner; grilled Trigger fish, fresh strawberries, and even a Gluten-free cheesecake!
I better head out to enjoy the sun while I can, and figure out how Triggerfish is cooked…bye!

Everyone was up early. I was surprised but with the sun streaming through the windows who could stay in bed? My sister and nephew had to leave early for school. Sis was serving as a proctor for their year-end tests. When she got home we headed to the farm just outside town to pick those strawberries Rebecca mentioned. It’s been years since I have picked fresh strawberries—they were especially delicious eaten warm, right in the field. I am not sure how many Matthew ate but he wasn’t interested in lunch.
Our nephew is busy as always with drum practice this afternoon and soccer tryouts tonight. Already we have forgotten about all the running we did for Rebecca…a blessing of a short memory. Our other nephew is attending NC State in Raleigh. If he doesn’t make it home we’ll try to meet up with him before our return flight.
Rebecca says the sun is up later here due to Daylight Savings Time. And unlike Arizona where we wish for less sun during the summer here we want to enjoy every bit of this beautiful weather. So we are headed to the beach to look for seashells and watch the waves.

Day 1 of a Super Vacation

9:21 am. Finally, we are in the air. The delay wasn’t so long but just seemed that way. Matthew was getting frustrated along with the rest of the passengers so I asked if we might be allowed to pre-board. The attendant was very accommodating but little did I know that half the plan was headed on during the pre-board time. We had difficulty even getting to the line what with all the pushing and shoving going on. “Who are these rude people?” Rebecca asked.
You’ll be glad to know that all my worry about our carry-on bags was for naught. They all fit easily in the overhead compartment. Bob kept telling me that our bags were small in comparison to others and he was right.
So the good thing about this delay is that our wait in Chicago will be cut dramatically. We are anxious that our flight out of there is on time… it’s a three hour drive to my sister’s from Raleigh. And while we have been there before it’s kind of tricky to find her house in the dark. We took a look yesterday and the GPS doesn’t have directions for the last mile. We’ll have to trust our map reading skills.
I am not happy with Starbucks. They have been promoting a gluten free snack but evidently it’s not at all stores yet.
More turbulence… more later…

10:36 (REBECCA’S PERSPECTIVE) Aw, man. This flight is cold! I should’ve listened to Grandma and worn my sweater on the plane. Oh, the things I don’t think about when I live in 105 degree weather… Well, the flight really isn’t that bad, just a bit long, and a bit delayed. We’ll survive, we now have 3.5 hours to spend at O’Hare instead of 4. You wouldn’t BELIEVE the people though! Boarding this flight was rather irritating, we asked to preboard for Matthew, so when the preboarding was announced, a multitude of non-handicapped impatient baby-boomers raced up to the check-in and congregated there, as if a mass of people would actually get on the plane faster than those organized into a single file line. Either way, we were shoved to the back of this throng, but somehow survived amidst scowls.
Oh look! Mom has just presented me with a quinoa cookie! Is it good? Only one way to find out….why, yes! Yes indeed. I highly recommend it with a glass of milk, though.
Back to the day’s events. We don’t have much planned except driving, and sadly I am still 3.5 years away from being able to drive a rental car. Mom thinks we may have a Dodge Charger for the week, how exciting is that?!?! That’s almost as awesome as driving a bright yellow 2010 Camaro.
Oh, short story before I leave you for now. You see, Matthew has brought along a new Marvel Hero coloring book, and there are at least 3 “Spot the difference” sections within it. So Mom turns to one, and asks Matthew, “OK, which one is it?” He immediately points to the first one of six, while Mom and I search to find the difference. We struggle to find the difference, but lo and behold, when we did, it was the first character. After flipping through this little book, another “StD” comes up, and he points to the last one. Again, I take far longer to figure it out, and once again Matthew is right within two seconds! This happens once more (where Matthew points out the right character immediately, and I confirm it finally five minutes later), and after three times, I am convinced that it isn’t just a fluke. Just goes to show that you gotta give credit where credit is due.

4:00 Chicago time: Well sitting here watching people has been great fun but it’s almost time to get on the next plane. Rebecca is quite worried I will take a “bump” and a later flight. Hey, what can I say…three free tickets is a good deal.

7:05 Eastern time: We’ll be landing shortly in Raleigh. We are on a small commuter plane—only two seats on each side. And nary a leftover spot. Apparently this is a busy travel time. While we haven’t seen too many families we have seen a good number of college age kids. I expect many are headed home for the summer. Or, as in my sister’s son’s case, returning to school for the summer session.
I really have to compliment the crew at Chicago. After the pushing and shoving in Phoenix (and it wasn’t by Matthew) I asked if we could board early. They let us on at the same time the United Gold members boarded…we felt pretty special and Matthew was much more comfortable.
Okay, I think that’s it for today. We have a 3 hour drive to get to the coast. So probably will not write anymore today. Pictures later…

Monday, May 18, 2009


Note: This is a bragging post. If you don't want to read something syrupy you might want to skip it...but on the other hand...

Last week was interesting for Rebecca. She was planning to volunteer at a local hospital but ran into a snag. She's not old enough. They do have a summer program for high school students that they would put her in but she couldn't be a regular volunteer.

This is not the first time she's run into problems. Being young has some disadvantages... As a freshman in high school (but only 12) she wanted to take a Sign Language class at the community college. The instructor met with us and thought it would work but then the administration turned her down. Still, things work out in ways we don't expect. The administrators at Grand Canyon University learned about her and invited her to take classes through them. They offered the first year ASL and when it came time to take the next level, transcripts in hand, the community college could hardly refuse her (although they did make us go through hoops and sign all kinds of waivers.)

But back to my story. As Christians we tend to believe that Providence plays a role in everything that happens. Still, a discouraged Rebecca was resigning herself to being a junior volunteer at the hospital. Then she decided to look further at the Sun Health Research website and discovered that several of the scientists involved in their Alzheimer's program were also professors at ASU. One in particular, was at the West campus. She was able to email him, explain her interest in volunteering, and give some references from his department. After meeting, he invited her to work on his team. He is in the Psychology department with a couple of different focuses on age related diseases. Friday she got to go in and meet many of his other helpers (who are mostly grad students). No doubt this will be a far better opportunity than sitting at a reception desk.

Last week was also finals at ASU. Biology was first and Rebecca was glad to get it out of the way. The Chemistry class was later in the week giving her more study time. What I call "the front row kids" gathered after the Bio test planning to go over Chem material for a couple hours. Almost ten hours later Rebecca came home exhausted--they had gone through the whole semester's worth of information. It sounded pretty grueling to me but apparently paid off when she reported that a lot of that earlier material did show up on the exam. After sitting on pins and needles for two days she could wait no longer and emailed the professor about her grade. The end result is that she now has 55 credits and still all A's.

So what's next? Rebecca has wanted to be a doctor since she was five. Each semester she sashays through makes me think it's more likely. And...for what it's worth she just can't wait until she turns 18.

Oh, and in case you are wondering the top picture is what a temper tantrum looks like...and the bottom picture is a young girl determined to be Superman for Halloween, not Superwoman, but Superman like her big brother.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

More on Traveling with Matthew

Time Magazine has a good article on traveling with an autistic child. We know several autistic children who aren't able to fly due to the stress. There is no doubt we are very fortunate. Matthew is a pretty good traveler. Though I do worry greatly about getting stuck on an airplane for hours.

In any case, we are gearing up with plans to leave early Wednesday morning. One of the recommendations in the magazine is to visit the airport and practice going through the screening area. I'm not sure that Phoenix Sky Harbor officials would be quite up for us to do this. But we do always make sure to leave plenty early. We don't want to start off frazzled. I think Matthew's connection with police and security in the airport (you know...the good guys...)helps. That the screener is dressed in a uniform probably helps him too.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Matthew loves to have his "certain stuff" with him. This week he's been hanging on to his "non-bobble" bobble heads Kirk and Spock. I expect they will want to travel with us. Luckily they are small and will fit in the carry-on bag with books, pencils, and paper. We save things like the movies as long as possible. Nothing worse than running out of battery power two hours in to a five hour flight. Of course, he was absolutely in 7th heaven when we flew to Europe and each seat had its own tv screen with his choice of shows. (I won't talk about the numerous discussions we had about turning off the tv and getting some sleep...)

We also pack plenty of food. Even before the airlines began charging for everything we found that having a special diet made airplane meals a real challenge. On this trip I've already scoped out the Whole Foods store for when we arrive in Raleigh so we can pick up food for both during our visit and the return trip. We have traveled where I've had to pack enough for entire trip. (I'm thinking we must look like the Beverly Hillbillies on those occasions.)

Some have asked me about travel and routine for Matthew; wondering how he handles it. Again, we are fortunate...or maybe it's that we have traveled enough to have a "traveling routine." We have been able to live on "our" schedule. It's like the routines that you have during the work week and the weekend. Some people might think we miss out on certain activities but in reality we usually manage to do most everything on our list.

One of the tips I did pick up in the magazine article was that many theme parks offer a "front of the line" pass to those with special needs, including autism. I can tell you I'll be looking for that next time we choose to visit a theme park. A true challenge to us is standing in line and staying patient. Have you ever been stuck in a line that seems to be never ending? You look down one side and then down the other and inside you are gritting your teeth saying, "GRRRR..." (I've been there.) Well, that's Matthew, except that he actually will act out. When we're in lines I stand there whispering in his ear, "Wait. Just a few minutes. No pushing. Hands to yourself." You get the idea. I don't know that it helps him...but it helps me.

A lot of the tips in the article were pretty common sense. Everyone should have ID in case of separation. I would add, that everyone should know where you are going...and everyone should hold hands. Sometimes the sea of humanity as passengers exit a plane is just down right frightening. I always feel better if I have a hand to hold.

So, tomorrow we will get out the suitcases. And, as I wrote earlier, Matthew will pack and repack his. Then the night before we leave I will pack it and zip it up. It's important to have more than his underwear, videos, and tv guides. Although, as I always tell Bob, they have stores everywhere. Think about us on Wednesday but I am sure we'll do well and have a good time.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Dentist

Have you ever been scared to see the dentist? Compound it a hundred fold and you might be close to the fear Matthew has. Of course, it's irrational and I can tell when he's trying, but still we've had appointments where I've had to push him through the door just to get inside.

Over the years we have been to many different dentists. Some took one look at Matthew and then wrote a referral. Then we would be referred again. And finally get to the "super specialist" who would gladly do the work but was always hugely busy and getting an appointment took months. Unfortunately, it always seemed just as we would get all the snarls worked out our insurance would change and we'd have to start all over. Yuck. It wasn't fun.

Without going into a whole long story about these experiences let me just say that a couple years ago Arizona's medicaid program (AHCCCS) offered to pay some of the disabled adult's dental care. The program only lasted one year. In order for it to work for us we had to find a dentist who was on both our current personal insurance and Matthew's supplemental plan. It turned out there was one office in the Valley that would meet our needs. And at that office we met Dr. Melanie Hull.

We got Matthew an appointment and just in time too. He had several severe problems. (Some people say that an unfortunate side effect of Celiac Disease is a "robbing" of calcium through the body and yep, the teeth.) In any case, the work had to be done under general anesthesia which, because Matthew is not too big, they were able to do in the office. The very surprising outcome of this was that the dentist was actually willing to see him again. And we went back in three months and then in six months. The first few times Matthew sat in the corner and barely tolerated letting Dr. Hull looked at his teeth. Now, he sits in the dental chair and actually puts his head back (a pretty brave thing if you are Matthew). This morning he let her brush his teeth and clean four or five before he jumped up. We even attempted an x-ray of his teeth. Dr. Hull has been amazingly patient and consistent--two key factors for Matthew. Today she said she's okay with taking it one step at a time. She also takes time to look at his worn and tattered TV Guide and talks to him about his favorite shows and even patiently listens to his mom who insists on talking about all those past trials.

So we've made our next appointment. I also brought home with me a plastic holder for the x-ray film. Our experience has shown us that when we practice, practice, practice Matthew can grow to tolerate different procedures. Our goal is to get good x-rays at that next visit. Today Matthew was also given his own personal Phoenix Pediatric Dental shirt. You can see it in the above picture as he shows off his beautiful clean teeth. (I am sure his friends will also note that Walker, Texas Ranger managed to make it in the picture.)

Chalk up one for a good day with the dentist.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


We are looking forward to traveling again. Next week the kids and I are heading to Raleigh and then to visit my sister on the coast of North Carolina. We will stay just a few days and then pick up Bob in Raleigh and drive up to visit friends in PA. I just realized we won't be checking off any states this visit...but we have not driven the Interstate 95 on that portion so I guess that counts. I am amazed that Mapquest continues to tell me it's only a 6 hour drive from RDU to Baltimore. The last time we drove in this area we went from Philadelphia to Southern WV and it seemed like it took more than 12 hours. But Mapquest hasn't led me astray yet.

So in only a few days it will be time to think about packing. We've decided to travel light this trip and not check suitcases. Can we do it??? As I always remind Bob, there are plenty of stores at our destination...and...they sell whatever we need. Matthew is a great packer...he packs everything he needs--underwear and videos. I always leave his bag until last because if I'm not paying close attention he'll repack everything. Rebecca is a typical girl--I told her no suitcase and she is sure she won't be beautiful without the blow dryer.

If you know of something along this route that we should stop and see do let me know. We will always be the homeschooling family looking for educational opportunities every day.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mystery Shopper Extraordinaire

Everyday someone asks me about this experience as a Mystery Shopper. It sounds like fun so people want to know where to sign up. But there are a couple of really important things to understand before you do.

First, DO NOT FALL FOR THE SCAMS! I have had several friends call me, "Hey, I just got a check for $3,500 to be a Mystery Shopper! All I have to do is deposit it and send the company $200 for their fees. The rest is money for me for visiting their stores." Again, DO NOT FALL FOR THIS! This is no different from the email you get from the solicitor in Nigeria who really wants to get rid of the 90Million US Dollars and all you need to do is send him your account information... It's not true and you will end up on the short side. Another scam is to charge people a sign up fee to become a mystery shopper. You do not have to pay money.

Second, this is not a "Get Rich Quick" job. In fact, many of the companies require that you make a purchase and they will reimburse you, but sometimes not for two months. You must be able to absorb these costs until reimbursement.

That being said, I am finding this experience to be a fun activity and it allows Matthew and me to do things we otherwise might not.

I started as a Mystery Shopper last year when someone forwarded me an email. After checking in to it I decided this was a legitimate company and signed up. We did a couple of shops out at Anthem and I thought maybe it was worth my time, but maybe not. (After all Anthem is about 20 miles from our house.) But then I was asked to attend some Insurance seminars. They were for retired people and the particular government agency wanted to make sure that the companies were following all their rules...can't say this, can't be disparaging about the government, etc., etc. They didn't need only seniors--one could have a relative of the right age. So I signed up. Or I should say, Matthew and I did... We actually enjoyed listening to the information (though I think Matthew enjoyed the free soda most). I would come home, write up my report and at the end of the month got a small paycheck.

Well, it was easy enough that I started investigating and discovered a whole new world. I remembered that years ago my mom visited restaurants and would have to check them for all kinds of things. She was a pioneer mystery shopper.

So here I am today. I am sure the process is much easier and faster with the Internet and email for contacts than is likely was for my mom. But much is the same. I work as an independent contractor. Should I actually make enough money I would have to pay taxes on it as a contractor. I keep records, mileage, and track of any expenses that are not reimbursed. There are many companies doing this. And, as I discovered, there is even a certification that one can get. It's not like one of Rebecca's finals but does emphasize the need for paying attention to details. I also discovered a lot of companies encourage getting the certification.

I think it's important to note again that most of the jobs don't pay a whole heck of a lot. The restaurant visits I've done generally pay for the meal up to a certain amount (meaning, if I take the kids I'm likely covering their meal.) Other shops may pay as little as $5 for the visit but some are much higher. Of course, the higher the pay, the more sought after. It's not always a guarantee that you'll get a job--some are self assign but others you just sign up for and the company gets to pick and choose. One thing that I like is when there is a job that no one wants to do and the company gets down to their deadline they will raise the pay. Okay, so you still aren't getting rich, but Matthew and I have had fun traveling across the state doing some of these last minute jobs.

The last important thing to look at is the report. Some companies have short yes/no questions and want a sentence or two about the visit. Most, that I have found, want much more detail. What time did you enter the store, step in line, finish at the register? Describe the salesman. What did his name tag say? Did he have any distinguishing features? Earrings? Glasses? What did he say when he greeted you? What did he say at the completion of the transaction? Did he use suggestive selling and if so what was mentioned? You may be better at remembering all these details than me; but yesterday, for example, we visited a grocery store and I had to remember those details for six employees. And most of the companies want complete, grammatically correct sentences. Typing skills are important. All this, and don't be spotted writing notes. We work in "stealth" mode. (In fact, a friend told me that at his company they would try to spot the mystery shoppers and the employee who did would get a bonus--yikes!)

So there you have it. Mostly, I get to be my average self doing every day things just observing the stores and workers. Sometimes we get to dress up (and Rebecca always wants to accompany me then) and sometimes we get to dress down. It's important not to stand out in the crowd.

If you want more information just give me a shout.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rebecca's Car

As you can see there's nothing all that exciting about Rebecca's car. She likes it because it has a spoiler AND it's ASU yellow. Matthew likes it because if you use your imagination and don't think too hard it looks like the Bumble Bee car from the Transformer movie.
The other day Rebecca got to babysit for a couple of her favorites. The little girl hadn't seen her car so ran out when Rebecca drove up. "WOW! You have a Lamborghini!"