Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Did you see us???

Senator McCain Town Hall

Well there we were this morning messing around, checking email and I asked Matthew if he'd like to do something fun... We all have our hero's and one of Matthew's favorites is John McCain. I had gotten an email that Senator McCain would be holding a town hall meeting just down the road in Sun City and thought Matthew might enjoy seeing him.

It was only about three miles away so I figured leaving at 10 for an 11:00 start was plenty soon. But to our surprise we weren't the only ones going to the town hall and waited a good while just to get turned on to the street with the church. We got inside the church only to hear that the main sanctuary was already filled and there was some overflow seating where we could go. I figured since we had come this far we might as well sit there and at least watch some before Matthew got bored. Just as we walked past the main doors a nicely dressed woman peeked out then walked up to me and smiled, "Are you headed for the overflow room?" she asked. When I nodded she took my hand and said, "Come with me." We went inside the sanctuary and she pointed out another woman, "Tell her that I sent you and you can sit up in the choir area in front."

"Really??? Wow..." And off we were to the front of the room. We sat in the second row with all the Republican volunteers and donors.

Only when I sat down did I think about what we were doing. You know Matthew. We always sit in the back of church and at the back of any meeting but here we were up in the front visible to everyone... Then I looked across the room--TV cameras pointed our direction. Yikes.

But there we were and fortunately, Matthew got caught up in all the buzz. Lots of people talking and smiling, enjoying themselves. And when the introductions began he could see Senator McCain just off to the side--right next to us. His American Hero.

I was surprised that Matthew made it through the clapping and standing. I am sure he laughed at the few boos he heard. I don't think he cared a whole lot about the Health Care Reform information that was being shared but he did seem to enjoy listening.

If you watch the video you'll spot us and I know you'll think two things. One, someone should have told me to do a better job brushing my hair (where's my daughter when I need her...) and two watching me rub Matthew's neck and leg (which we always do when he has to sit and pay attention) is quite annoying. I doubt they would have put us in front had the gal realized Matthew was autistic but I am glad that he could sit there and be a pretty good representation of someone with special needs.

Oh, and what did the Senator say??? I'm going to have to go back and watch the video.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

105 in the shade--I'm either in Purgatory or I'm Home

Yep, we made it safe and sound. Took the car back, had a nice hot breakfast at the hotel, caught the shuttle bus just as we walked out, no line at the airport and the plane was on time... what more do you want? Well, we were treated to a "tour" of Mt. Rainier. And I mean an amazing aerial view. I am thinking that it must be very unusual for the mountain to be so clear although maybe every pilot takes a big dip and curves around the mountain so we could see all sides and even look up to North America's second highest peak. What a great way to cap off our visit to the Pacific Northwest.

So we got home, searched out our scaredy cats (who had gone in to hiding the past several days) and then ate our traditional post vacation Mexican Food dinner. And now that it's past 7pm my electricity has kicked into high gear and we are pretending it's cool here.

I'll unpack suitcases and do wash tomorrow. Tonight we are just relaxing and talking about what was most impressive for each this trip. As I expected, Rebecca thinks the Butchart Gardens were the most amazing. And truly it is. We drove up through the countryside on a little two lane road (thanks to the unique mapping our GPS chose) and from this very rural, treed area you find yourself in the middle of Eden. I hope you get to visit here. Bob thought that the best part was our drive up to Mt. Olympus and Hurricane Park. Matthew too, was very happy to see the deer so close up. Bob and the kids had never seen a glacier and to see it through the fog was pretty cool. Matthew and I are still shaky from our hair-raising experiences across the Capilano bridge and up to the top of the Space Needle. I told Bob we were able to say the whole 23rd Psalm on the ride up. The view from both places was indeed spectacular but we are both very glad to be home with our feet firmly planted on the ground.

Thought you'd appreciate these two pictures today. If you have ever spent any time around Bob you know that his cell phone is his umbilical cord and there is always someone calling from work. Here we are on the ferry and he was gabbing on about this, that or the other with one of the guys. He even had service in Canada but when I reminded him he might have to pay $$ for the international fee he quickly turned it off.

And here are the sweet children entertaining themselves... ah, life is good.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Here's to Old Friends

Today was pretty special. We got to spend the day with my friend Dorcas. She was the first person I met when we moved to Sitka as a 7th grader. Rebecca asked if I thought Dorcas was the same and I have to say she is. Same cheerful person, with lots to share. We had a great time visiting and catching up.

The weather was absolutely beautiful here today. It might have reached 80 and there was always a breeze. So we walked from the hotel to Pikes Fish Market. The kids were impressed with all the fish and seafood but especially the show put on by the guys working there. When they toss fish through the air and chant it's pretty amusing. The market area is filled with small shops and a farmer's market. I loved all the cut flowers available at such low prices. We would have bouquets everywhere in the house if I lived here.

Dorcas wanted us to visit another unique place so we drove a short ways to Snoqualmie Falls. The water falls were fun to look at from the top but we decided to be adventurous and hike to the river down below. I can tell you that walking down the trail was not too bad but the hike out... well, let's just say we were all glad for the many shady spots where we could catch our breath. I tried to reach a ripe blackberry in the middle of the thicket thinking it would quench my thirst and instead got caught up in the bush.

Today was a great way to wrap up our trip. We are packing tonight and heading back to hopefully cooler Phoenix tomorrow. Rebecca is looking forward to evaluating the Sea-Tac airport. She thinks it's pretty hard to beat Sky Harbor.

Rebecca's Perspective: Another great day to our trip, I'm so glad we had a Seattlelite show us around! Dorcas was our tour guide to the little known spots near Seattle, as well as the very famous Pike Place Market! She even took us to the very first Starbucks! The place that started it all. How cool. :) Across from the fresh flower and fruit market place, there were assorted bakeries and delicatessens, even a cheese shop where we all tried some curd cheese! Matthew was very excited to see a bakery that had a whole gluten free section, something that is becoming more popular in the Seattle area. After seeing the falls and having a giant lunch, we drove to Kirkland to enjoy a scenic view of Lake Washington. Beautiful weather made the day perfect for such outdoors activities.

I will sorely miss this wonderful weather, but I keep hearing how lucky we were to not run into clouds and rain. I think we're all ready to head home, myself to get ready for school! It's been a great trip readers, keep following! :D

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Seattle, WA USA

Rebecca’s Perspective: What a beautiful day in Seattle! Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes, and I won’t be surprised if it’s a dream… :-) (for all you Karen Carpenter fans out there.) Today was a lot of traveling; about an hour of which was spent waiting to cross the border back into the US. The line was pretty insane. We thankfully all had our passports so when we got to customs we moved right along. In the midst of our trip back to Seattle, we took a detour to see Whidby Island. It was very scenic; Mom’s got a house picked out for me to buy her (when I manage become a millionaire, I think.) right on the coast of Washington. After we got into town, we ventured on the monorail to the SPACE NEEDLE!!! Oh boy, was that … well, maybe not exciting, but something that sure got your attention. While Mom and Matthew weren’t too willing to walk along the edge, Dad and I did boldly go where I hadn’t gone before. I was pretty nervous out there, but as long as I didn’t have to look down I was okay. Of course the occasional accidental glance had me hanging tight to the wall, though. Tonight we’re staying downtown, and tomorrow we’re looking forward to seeing my mom’s friend Dorcas and walking around Pike’s Place Market as well as some other nearby attractions!

Oh that Rebecca. Karen Carpenter. Sounds like she listens to the Oldies radio too much.

We are back in the good ole US of A. And it’s a good feeling. I knew for sure we were back when we spotted a group of veterans protesting the Health Care Reform program being proposed. I thought it was interesting that they were out maybe there was a Town Hall meeting in the small town we were in.

Today was just perfect weather here! We’ll be miserable when we get back to Phoenix…unless fall has suddenly hit. As Rebecca mentioned we bravely rode to the top of the Space Needle and for Matthew and me once was enough. We thought it was a beautiful view but I had to keep Matthew looking at me on the ride since he was quite nervous. He was funny though when we got down close enough to see the tree branches he kept saying, “Ahhhh. Whew…” I’m telling you we have never tested our bravery so much as this trip.

The sun is just thinking about setting as I write this from our 18th story room so I’ll wrap up. We can’t wait to see the fish being thrown around at the Fish Market tomorrow and I am very much hoping that we can eat lunch at our family’s year old favorite restaurant down on the wharf.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Vancouver, Home of the 2010 Winter Olympics

It was fun to ride the ferry to Vancouver this morning. The kids were entertained by a naturalist who talked about the sea life in the area. Matthew and I saw a seal and Rebecca spotted a dolphin. Look as we might, we didn't see any orcas.

The picture here I was going to label "The Face of Fear" but Rebecca thought it would be better titled "Three Brave Souls". This was taken as we walked across the suspension bridge over the Capilano River north of Vancouver. Truly it was amazingly scary... I think walking across is easily worth several years off time served in Purgatory... Matthew thought it was funny as the bridge swayed until we got past the trees and were out in the open. Then I had to convince him to keep going. We visited here our first time through and only the bridge is the same (if that). This has turned into a major tourist mecca with fees and high dollars at every turn but still, it is a fun and very unique place to visit.

As we came in to the city we visited the Queen Elizabeth Garden. We spotted at least seven wedding parties taking place in this beautiful area. Now Rebecca is torn between having HER wedding at Butchart or the Queen Elizabeth gardens. Thankfully, she has ALOT of time before this is her worry...

Tonight we drove through Chinatown. Because we didn't need a flat, dried duck we didn't make any purchases... This and the rest of the city center area reminds me of San Francisco. Very interesting place.

Rebecca's Perspective: What a beautiful day spent on both Vancouver Island and Vancouver! At about 65 degrees and wind, I felt quite comfortable with just my long sleeves and jeans while other tourists and Canadians were bearing shorts and tank tops! Really, the bridge was not quite as frightening as my mom makes it out to be-- you just have to not look down, not let go of the sides, and pray that the 8 year old boy stops jumping and making the bridge sway more. We also found that the bridge isn't quite as bad when it is crowded with people. We crossed the middle segment alone the first time across, and with no one on the other side, boy did we lean! Balance is key. But the area surrounding and 230 feet below was beautiful and scenic as one might expect. We also saw many weddings take place at the Queen Elizabeth Gardens, a smaller version of Butchart right in the heart of Vancouver! I could just see myself there in a few years on a beautiful summer day, my wedding party surrounding in the lush gardens... though Mom and Dad seem to think this won't take place for another 20 years.

Tomorrow we're off to Seattle, perhaps to Pike Place Market or even the Space Needle! We'll right more soon...

Useless stuff...

It's a beautiful morning here today. Partly cloudy sky and a breeze. We are taking the ferry across to Vancouver in a little while. I expect we'll be glad to have our jackets.

I woke up thinking about some of the differences between our Canadian cousins and us. If you've been up here before you'll probably be able to add to my list.
• Locals often do use "Eh?" at the end of every sentence. Why? I don't know. But they do, eh.
• People seem to be very friendly. Of course, this Bob would know because he has engaged everyone in conversation...well, except of course, the Customs Agent where I warned him that he was to only answer their questions.
• People walk everywhere...we have had to watch out for pedestrians on the road. I know, if you are not from the Phoenix area this might seem a pretty lame observation and yet who walks in Phoenix??? We've decided this is most likely due to the 40+ degree temperature difference. I too would walk more if I didn't break into a sweat just stepping out the front door.
• Here's another possible AZ observation...there seem to be a lot of smokers here. Can't say I know why and it seems to contradict the healthy lifestyle of walking.
• Bring your wallet to Canada. It may be because we are in a tourist area but so far prices, especially for food are quite thinning. Last night we were told about a family restaurant that was really good but discovered on Friday nights they offered a "Frugal Friday" special of half off everything on their menu... you can't imagine how long the line was. We ate at A&W.
• Homeless people are everywhere. And they don't stoop to eating the wild berries along the roads. At least according to the park ranger we talked to.
• 80 means 50. Ah, that metric stuff again. They have signs posted just as you get off the ferry reminding us Americans that 80kph is the same as 50mph. The good thing is that Bob feels like he is driving faster when he sees the 80 or 90 signs.
• Speaking of metric, I think they took away the Imperial gallon here. Now it's all listed in litres. Gas prices also seem to be set as there was no variance within the city. Last night we paid 102.7/l (a hundred and two cents plus 4tenths...what the heck is that?) You can figure out the actual price as compared to the US... I just told Bob to stop at $20...and the gauge did actually move.
• Canadian money is cool. The bills are colorful but more interesting are their $1 and $2 coins. They are called Loonies and Toonies. Yes, they do say this with a straight face.
Okay, it's time for breakfast. Bob has already checked out the restaurant and found good things for Matthew so we're off. Hope to see whales today.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Nanaimo, BC

After visiting Victoria's castle this morning we jumped on BC1 and headed north. It doesn't take long to be in some very rural country. We followed the coast up most of the way to Vancouver Island's second largest city (I think the city size drops exponentially as Nanaimo is not all that big.)

I was surprised to see wineries in this area. We stopped to take in a lavender farm and learned that there are several very good wines that come from this area.

As Bob was driving I thought I could see berries alongside the road. Sure enough we discovered that blackberries were just turning ripe. Well, after tasting them we decided that they would make a great treat. We emptied our McDonald's cups and filled them with the sweet berries. Matthew refused to take a cup as he just choose to eat them right off the bush. I thought Rebecca was doing better until I realized she had only a few berries in her cup and also had chosen to taste test. Most surprising was when I looked under one of the blackberry bushes and discovered a red juicy plum. There was a wild plum tree protected by the stickery bushes. I was able to snag enough for us to all to taste them.

The weather here today was absolutely beautiful. We took advantage of it and rode a small ferry out to explore a little island. Again we followed "the road less taken" as we hiked across the island. According to the map we walked 4.2km--brownie points to you if you know how many miles that is off the top of your head. The ferry driver kidded us about telling all our Arizona friends about this beautiful spot. He preferred that we keep it a secret. There is no doubt it is very beautiful here but I have a feeling that it takes a lot of rain and cool humid days to make it so green.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

After an early morning ferry ride we are in Canada. This is an exciting vacation for us as it is a repeat of sorts. Somewhere around 25 years ago we made this same trip. Rebecca has heard about it and complained that it was another BR (Before Rebecca) place that she missed out on. So far it has been a great chance to bring back memories of our first time on this route.

The weather forecast was somewhat questionable today and tomorrow so we decided to visit Butchart Gardens first before the rain slowed us down. I think it's bigger than I remember but wow is it still just as beautiful. The gardens began when a woman decided to beautify an old limestone quarry. I hope you have the chance to come here and see for yourself. The pictures can't do it justice.
We finished touring the gardens just before a big squall hit. A perfect chance to try a Canadian Big Mac... oh, yes, they are just the same as in AZ. Speaking of the same, so far, the only difference we have seen since crossing the border is their currency...and the fact that more people fly the Canadian flag.

Tonight we dodged raindrops so that we could catch the beautiful Legislative Building lit up.

Rebecca's Perspective: Well, Matthew and I looked hard from the bow of the ship for traveling orcas, but alas we could not spot any. The cold trip over was beautiful nonetheless, and we all look forward to our next ferry ride, which will be from Nanaimo to Vancouver. After passing through Customs, we used the GPS to find Butchart Gardens. I think we went on some more rural roads, but as you might expect, the multitude of green is always welcome to this eager Arizonan. Speaking of green, you can't Believe how lush and vibrant the Gardens are!! One of the most spectacular sites I've ever seen. Mom tried to prepare me for the Sunken Gardens (pictured above), but the expansiveness held me in captivity.

We spent a lot of time familiarizing ourselves with Victoria, a quaint town filled with shops and attractions. Matthew and I even found perfect nutcrackers for my collection! Tomorrow we're hoping to see some Dragon Boat races and possibly Craigdarroch Castle before heading off to Nanaimo. Stay tuned for details.
Time to turn in for the night. While we did not stay at the Empress Hotel we did luck out and have use of a jacuzzi. After a relaxing sit in the spa everyone should sleep well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On the Road Again...

As I sit down to write you tonight Rebecca is pretending to be Willie Nelson and entertaining us with her rendition of her favorite song.

Tonight finds us in Port Angeles, WA. It was one of those long travel days. If you read my Facebook page you might have seen my smart remark about taking a midday flight and how lucky I was to sleep in... Well, we'll probably not do this again as it seems all single parents with twin teething children were on this flight. I have a good mental note that getting up early for the flight next time may be worth the hour less sleep.

But we had a good flight and today I was reminded that there are a couple of perks having a handicapped child. One, if you ask nicely the flight attendant will let you board before the big crush of the crowd and two, Matthew has a National Park card that got us in to Olympic Park this afternoon for free. Hey, we take them when we can...

Seattle is as I remembered, it was partly cloudy and just beautiful. I think it was about 70 today. Just right. What a nice change from the valley. We had a beautiful drive to Port Angeles and on advice of the hotel manager took advantage of the longer sumer day and drove up to the observation point in Olympic Park. What a great idea as we had a great view from the mountain and in the alpine meadow at the top got to stand within 10 feet of some deer. Matthew was in seventh heaven!

Tomorrow we are taking the ferry across to Vancouver Island and will spend the day in Victoria. Wish you were here!

Rebecca's Perspective: Hello all! And to those of you in Phoenix, I am... not jealous. :) It has been wonderful weather since arriving here at about 2, easy, breezy, beautiful-- Seattle! After much driving and our first ferry trip of the trip, we arrived in the quaint tourist city named Port Angeles. I love it here. The houses are just gorgeous, as is the view! Like Mom mentioned, we did have the chanced to go up and see Mount Olympia and its nearby peaks, I was enraptured by the fog!!! We drove right into a cloud, then above it! It was beautiful. According to my dad (who read the plaque at the scenic point), there are over 60 active glaciers on those peaks-- I was amazed at that, here in the midst of August. Back in Phoenix, it's still topping 100 degrees. Just goes to show how important traveling is to broadening one's mind and horizons. Well, we are all off to bed I think, must get up rather early to catch our ferry. We'll write again soon!

Sunday, August 9, 2009



We are going to reshingle my parents house in Strawberry. (No, there won't be snow...) But, I can guarantee it will be cooler than the valley.

Twenty-five years ago we put the first roof on (at the time thinking my folks were too "old" to be climbing around on the roof). Now it's time to reroof--and ...well, let's just say, they aren't any younger.

If you are free and want to lend a hand please join us for a roofing party over Labor Day weekend. You don't have to be a carpenter or have specific talent to help. There will be plenty of instruction given. Oh, and we are an equal opportunity family... Girls are just as able to climb on the roof and swing a hammer as boys. Come see if you can pound more nails than Rebecca!

We have room for you to stay with us. Beds will be assigned on a first come basis so let me know! (However, if you are an expert roofer and take MY place on the roof, I will gladly give up my bed so that you can be well rested.) There will be plenty of food and drink--grandma is already planning the menu. We believe that many hands make light the work. It's likely that we may be able to provide a ride to and from the valley. If we have enough workers we might even be finished early and able to go down to Fossil Creek for some cold water fun.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dealing with Government Programs

I have been thinking about the new Health Care Reform bills currently proposed. Having a handicapped adult son has given me a unique insight into government sponsored programs, including health care. It is frustrating dealing with government agencies staffed with, probably well meaning, but overworked employees. If our experience is what single payer health insurance is like I am pretty sure I will opt out.

Talking about our experiences is difficult. We try hard not to dwell on the negatives of our situation. However, after a good amount of thought and watching the conversation about the health care reform I am pulled to share.

Our son Matthew has severe handicaps. Once he turned 18 he became eligible for several government programs including health and certain "care" coverage. What each program covers actually varies with the state budget. The health insurance covers all "approved" medical as long as we go to the assigned doctor. The government health insurance (state run) does not provide for dental services after age 21. Currently we choose to have Matthew under Bob's work medical program, giving us more choices for his care and dental coverage. I like being able to find a doctor with whom we are comfortable. Matthew has had so many dental problems (due in part to his disability as well as his medical issues) that he needs the insurance coverage. Respite care offered by the state is a program that offers care givers some time off. Additional programs from the state include habilitation (working toward a particular goal) and attendant care.

In our experience, with each program we must allow more access of the government into our lives. Well meaning workers come in to our house quarterly and to make sure Matthew is being treated well. They observe our living situation. They can look in our refrigerator. Annually, I must account for money received from SSI. I understand that not all families are as cohesive as ours but these are intrusions, none the less.

Last year I had heard from a friend that one could be paid to care for a handicapped family member. I talked to Matthew's case worker and he agreed that this was so and Matthew was already scheduled for habilitation hours. He gave me the contact information for the intake worker who would get me started. I called and left messages but did not hear back from the person. After more than two months I asked the social worker to contact the person directly which he did. The intake worker gave me a giant stack of papers to fill out and informed me that I would need references and all adults in the house would need fingerprinting. I know you're asking, "To take care of your own son???" Yes.

I muddled through the paperwork, got my friends to write letters and met all the requirements. And met with the intake person several times. I had to take tests on appropriate discipline procedures, what to do for an emergency, how to fill out a time sheet and more. At that time the intake worker said that since I would have to take additional classes to be qualified for the habilitation program I could begin with attendant care. All paperwork finally complete she submitted it to the state for approval.

A month later I phoned to check on the progress and was told it could take three months. After three months I phoned again and left a message. No one called me back. Matthew's social worker came for his visit and let me know he was changing districts. Another month passed and I finally got hold of the intake worker. We made an appointment to meet and when I showed up at the office she had apparently "forgotten" and was off campus. What a waste of my time, when she finally appeared for our appointment she couldn't find the state approval or any of the paperwork. Naturally, she offered to call me as soon as she had everything straightened out.

In the mean time I received information from the agency who would take care of the paperwork for the attendant care. They mailed out 30 pages of information, each page requiring Matthew's signature. More privacy issues... and yes, he was considered the employer...even though he has no money and cannot fend for himself.

Almost nine months had elapsed from the beginning of this process. Finally, it appeared that everything was in order. But no. Matthew had never been evaluated for attendant care services. (You'd think someone would have noticed this.) So I was told he would need his new social worker to do an evaluation. Fine. Call and leave a message. Call and leave a message. Call and leave a message... you get the idea. Finally I pulled out the information letter and discovered a supervisor's name. After another two weeks she managed to return my phone call. They were very sorry...the new social worker assigned to Matthew was one of the few employees who is bilingual so he was very busy. Apparently too busy to return a phone call. But they could assign Matthew another new case worker. Good grief but what could I do?

The new social worker does his evaluation and lets me know he has sent off the required paperwork. A month later I remind him about it, after all it's been a year since I began this process. Oh, they got the information back but he has some questions. One, have I provided attendant care for Matthew in the past and two, has he been in a group home where it was provided? Let's see, the file should be in front of his face and the answer plenty obvious. In the end, he tells me that of course, I am not eligible to do attendant care for him because I am his mother. Now...I could have someone else come in to our house and they would pay for it. Or if he goes in to a group home and then comes back home it would be a different story.

The last thing he tells me is that he has discovered that originally I was going to sign up for habilitation. Well, that is very different. If I want to sign up for that I should let him know and he'll start the paperwork.