Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Harry being Gramps

Warning! Child Spoiling Grandpa

My grandchildren, Maggie and Corbin spent the night a few days ago.  It's hard to believe they are turning 6 at the end of this month. They are twins and they were born early, which is not uncommon. They spent their first month in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the hospital. They grew fast and by their first birthday they were on track for normal growth based on pediatric norms.

In the first 18 months everything seemed normal. They crawled, learned to walk, and climb into/onto things where they could get into trouble. But my wife started noticing things. With 34 years of teaching children with special needs, she began noticing differences in Corbin. Where he had started using words, he stopped. He was more disconnected to his surroundings, focusing on one thing that would hold his attention. We suspected he was having hearing problems, but that was eventually ruled out. Trains fascinated him. Thomas the Tank Engine being his favorite, and he loved playing with our iPads.

Finally Jayne convinced our daughter to have him tested. He is autistic. The school district that they live in has lots of educational programs so at age 3 Corbin started his school career. Both children are in kindergarten programs this year, but alas, in different schools. Both schools are within a mile of their home, but it means twice as many meetings with teachers and field trips.

Maggie is so smart. She probably will be in the gifted program next year. Besides playing with dolls she loves LEGOs. I encourage her to build her own designs and not just build from plans. I want her to develop spatial reasoning. Boys have long excelled there, but there is no reason girls can't excel in it as well. I challenge her with math and science thru LEGOs.

Maggie plays well alone, but she prefers to be with others (and the center of attention). She is very social. We take her and her brother to our local Kid’s Museum every week. It is filled with play activities sponsored by local businesses. There is a malt shop where children can dress up and play waitress or waiter and serve you plastic food, a theatre with lots of costumes, auto repair shop, ambulance, grocery store, not to mentions slides, climbing toys, and arts area, and so much more. Anyhow Maggie searches out groups of children to play with and has a great time until we tell her it is time to go.

Corbin has a great kindergarten teacher this year. He’s non-verbal, but we are making progress. He is beginning to use words although sometimes it is hard to understand what his words are. Most reading programs used in schools now are on computers or tablets, which Corbin loves. The trouble is he wants to do his own thing on them. His teacher dug into her bag of tricks and is using a reading program that was popular 20 years ago where the child matches word with objects/colors on cards. He is making progress.

There is no doubt to me that he is just as smart as any child his age. He loves books and he likes you to read to him. He pays attention and turns the pages when you finish the text on it. He even fusses at me when I start to adlib a story. The boy is smart. That is evidenced by all the ways he knows how to get into trouble. He is a born Houdini. There is a reason that there is a deadbolt and chain on the doors. He can’t reach the chain… yet. He loves the water. The Kid’s Museum has a splash zone he loves to play in. Recently he discovered the water fountain feature of our home refrigerator. He doesn’t use a cup. He just stands there and giggles and the puddle spreads across the floor.

So as you can guess, since my retirement Corbin and Maggie have become a big part of my life. I really can’t imagine a better way to spend my time.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

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Friday, May 05, 2017

The Songs were Extremely Rude. It was all so Very British

by O. Reader

Buxton part 2
            The reason we came to Buxton was a folk festival, but unlike the usual events held in fields with muddy campsites and suspect “rest rooms” and the like, this was held in a couple of theaters, with a huge “beer tent” erected between them.
            It obviously had a different “feel” to the usual, least of all was the actual comfort enjoyed by ourselves - and we have got to an age where comfort sort of rates high on the totem pole.
            I missed the stalls selling organic food and hippy beads, and offering tantric osteopathic experiences. I missed the sing-arounds, where people with voices like bathwater escaping could still make their mark. And I missed the open mikes where young hopefuls could have their 15 minutes of infamy and the club tents. Paul Simon appeared at the club tent at one of the first Cambridge Folk Festivals, and look where he went from there.
            So it was probably more a series of official concerts in halls including the beautifully decorated Buxton Opera House, which dates from the Victorian era, where we had previously been for several years’ worth of Gilbert and Sullivan festivals in the past.
            But it was a bit incongruous with the music and the audience. You looked around you in the circle balcony. Loads of grey rinsed perms and bald heads could be seen jigging about in unison, forming a sort of Mexican wave along the rows. You half expected some octogenarian to throw himself into a spot of crowd surfing, being propelled over the heads of the audience before disappearing over the side of the balcony to land with a thud in the stalls below.
            But it WAS nice to have reserved seats. Incongruous, but nice. And it really was nice to sleep in a bed rather than in a sleeping bag on the floor of a tent.  
            There were two extra events that we will remember. On the Sunday morning they organized a walk. About 200 turned up. It was billed as a gentle stroll, but this was organized by fanatics who walk ten miles and then do a gig. We climbed UP (and I mean UP) to a folly called Solomon’s Temple, and there a choir who had walked with us with banners sang some political songs that were also extremely rude. It was all so very British.
            Mrs O declined to go on the walk, but I went with daughter and son-in-law.
            Then straight after, ones aching bones were abused still further by a Ceilidh. This is a sort of country dance, barn dance - dunno what you would call it in the States. It featured a band and a “caller” who gave you directions. Country dancing - a blast from the past - involves mass groups of people swinging around and stepping on toes, and forever changing partners, sort of getting their hands on all manner of different people - probably the main reason for it as a social activity in the pre-movie-radio-TV-internet age. They attempted what they called the largest example of a dance called “strip the willow” which involves large numbers swinging around in unison - a bit like an old Shaker meeting gone wrong. And did this go wrong! Large numbers of people on collision course in hysterics. That it happened in the “beer tent” where dozens of different ales were available for consumption probably had nothing to do with it. Yeah. Sure.      As for the music? Some was good, some very good, some I could happily never hear again. I did note with sudden perception that many younger performers don’t know what to do with their hands. I find this a problem with public speaking, but having something in your hand helps. For singers it can be a mike or a guitar, even if you don’t actually play the latter. Without it, you get some who jig around with stiff arms like a demented glove puppet - or you have John Jones of the Oyster Band with arm and hand movements so choreographed you would think he was giving you a master class in deaf-signing while he sang.
            The headliner was a group called The Levellers, which may mean nothing outside the UK, and even then outside a specific niche in the UK. But in the 1990s they had the biggest selling album of the decade in Britain. Yet it never made the charts, but 16 year anti-social left-wing-leaning teenagers loved it, and it steadily sold and sold. They were very professional, very funny, very political but full of the self deprecation that characterizes many Brits, which other nations sometimes find hard to understand. They brought the house down. Forget the reference to crowd surfing above, by the end of their set all those in the stalls were standing and dancing, and many in the circle where we were. I mean, they interrupted our view of the stage! Attempts to stem the tide were futile. And this was “The Opera House.” Nice one.
            So it’s goodbye to Buxton and home to responsibility and seriousness and all that sort of stuff. Ho hum.