Saturday, February 4, 2012

5 Years Ago Today...

On this day in 2007, my life fundamentally changed.

My son Matthew was born.

My wife woke me around 6am with the news that she thought he was on his way. A semi panicked call to the hospital ensued as it seemed as though the contractions were hitting pretty rapidly. My parents rushed over to take Karen and an hour or so later we were checked in at the hospital. Just a few hours later I would meet the boy who would make the biggest impact on my life that anyone has or will ever, make.

The following are a few pictures of my boy through the years, in no specific order. Well, not after the first few anyway.

Happy Birthday Matthew.

I love you,


Friday, January 6, 2012

I'm doing it again!

One Dad Bike-a-Thon for Autism

All of the information for my 2nd (annual?) bike-a-thon is located at the link above. It's a blog dedicated solely to the ride.

Please contact me if you're interested in sponsoring a local autism charity in your area!


Friday, December 30, 2011

iPhone 4/Otterbox Defender Bike Mount

Like some of you, I realized early on that the iPhone is a wonderful device. As an occasional cycling enthusiast I like to keep track of my rides. I've used several bike computers that have worked well, but really fell short in some areas. I downloaded the Cyclemeter App and decided right then and there that I was going to toss my bike computers and use this amazing cycling app. There was a problem, however. I didn't like any of the iPhone bike mounts I'd seen on the market. I didn't trust them because I cannot afford to replace my phone of it departs the bike mid-ride. It took some thinking before the solution (which was sitting unused in a drawer) came to me. It's as simple as it gets and if you already own an Otterbox Defender case for your iPhone 4, you've got 90% of what you need to make this work.
You'll need: the Otterbox Defender case and belt clip (included with case), several medium length zip ties, pliers for tightening zip ties, cutters for trimming them down, and as an option you can use some craft foam between the clip and the stem of your bike.
Cut a section of craft foam the same size as the belt clip. Being a student teacher, I have lots of this on hand. I like the sticky back variety. This is simply something to give the clip something to cozy up to other than the metal of the stem. I think it helps prevent the whole thing from rotating down to the sides.
Place the foam on the upper side of the stem.
You can put the zip ties on now, or after you place the clip on the stem. It's up to you. If you maintain a bike, you can figure this out.
Place the belt clip on the stem and put the zip ties over the clip till it looks something like....
Tighten the zip ties while you make sure the holder is centered on the stem.
It should look like this. The belt clip/case on the iPhone 4 Defender allows the phone to clip in either face down (covered) or face up (uncovered). I tried my wife's iPhone 3gs with an Otterbox Defender and it did not work. Here are some images of what it looks like in the riding position. The clip rotates and will click into any position (landscape, portrait or anything in between).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

There's no place like (our) home for the holidays.

The holidays are fast approaching. They always come this time of year don't they? I'm a very traditional person. I've always loved Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the time in between. I've liked going to the homes of family members and the few times in my adult life I've been in a position to host a gathering, I've enjoyed that too. I like being a small-time Clark Griswold and putting up some lights on the house and setting up the tree. I like trying to remember which stocking is mine. I like tying the tree to the wall to keep my cats from toppling it over.

Things are different now though. While we (most of us) get some time off for the holidays, my son doesn't get a break from autism. Since he doesn't get a break from it, we don't get a break from the things that come with having a son with autism. Those things include:

Constant monitoring

Finding things he'll eat

Making sure he has enough things to occupy him

Fear he'll get into something he shouldn't

Fear he'll melt down

Fear he'll break something expensive

Having a place to change him at a moment's notice

Having a bathroom he can occupy for as long as he wants until he poops

Having a place for him if he decides it's time for a nap (rare)

We have all of these things taken care of in our house. It's easy. It's when we go out to someone else's home that can be tough. There are a few places we go (my parents, my wife's parents and siblings homes) where we don't worry as much. Still it's exhausting trying to enjoy yourself while keeping track of everything that Matthew needs. We eat in shifts. "I'll watch him, you go and eat". "Are you done eating? Ok you watch him so I can eat, I'm starving" etc...It's like only one of us at a time can "enjoy" ourselves at any gathering. I never feel that we can commit to being anywhere for a set period of time. We can show up for something and if it's not working for Matthew for whatever reason, we're out. That's just the way it is. We enter damn near everything with the fear of what will happen and what we'll do if things turn south. 99% of the time the answer is "we'll just go home".

That's where we feel most at peace. That's where we can somewhat let our guards down. It's set up for him. He has places he can go and not get into trouble. His shows are on the DVR. His snacks are in the pantry. He's a happy kid and isn't too bothered by strange places. We're the ones that worry. Our hosts don't make us feel this way.

This season we'll venture out and do some family things. We'll have fun. It will be nice to visit with family...It always is.

But it's always nice to get back home.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Some people get it. Some don't.

Background information:

I have a 4 year old son with autism. He is almost completely non verbal, although some progress has been made on that front. Not enough as far as I'm concerned, but these things take time.

This school year he started an autism-specific preschool at a complex where people with disabilities from ages 3 to 22 receive services. Most of the students at this school are profoundly disabled and rely on wheelchairs for mobility.

My son is healthy and I thank God every day for that. I know nothing in this world is guaranteed.

On to my story. This past Thursday as I picked my son up from school, I ran into the head of maintenance at his school. His name is Rick. This man is someone I knew when I was younger. We grew up in the same small town. I ran into him for the first time in years when we did our orientation at the school a few months ago.

He asked me how things were going with my son at the school and in general. I mentioned to him that I was about to take my son for additional therapy at Fresno State. He does 20 hours of preschool and 20 hours of ABA therapy a week. I said "He's 4 and he has a 40 hour a week job". Which is true. He works his butt off all day long. Rick then asked about me. I told him that I'm taking 16 units, student teaching 5 days a week, in class 3 nights a week, working at the VA hospital 20 hours a week and, along with my wife, raising 2 kids and trying to stay sane.

In the span of a 2 minute conversation, Rick offered more compassion and understanding of not only my son's situation, but of my own, than I've received from some people who know me very well. It was genuine and unsolicited...and it meant the world to me. I've asked for (and practically begged for in some cases) understanding. It doesn't come as naturally to some people. Sometimes it doesn't come at all.

And here is this man, who...out of the blue...Lets me know that he realizes how difficult life with a special needs child can be. I was floored by his kindness and compassion.

He gets my son.

He gets me.

He gets it.

I don't expect people without a special needs child to really understand what our lives are like....but it's nice when someone makes the effort.

Sometimes the effort alone is enough.

Rick and a Paraeducator named Jonathan made a Lip Dub video featuring the students and staff at the school.

My son is at 2:36 (dancing with his teacher)

And at 4:41 in the lower right corner on the play structure. 

You can watch the video here. Please share it with everyone you know. We need more of this type of acceptance in the world. 

As for the rest of the people at my son's school?

They get it too.

PS, this is Rick.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hot Rods for a Great Cause

Yesterday, the Camtwisters of Fresno held their annual "On The Roof" Car Show at River Park. The show benefitted FEAT-FMC (Families for the Effective Treatment of Autism - Fresno-Madera County).

FEAT, among many other things, supports the Central California Autism Center. My son attends ABA therapy at the CCAC. They are wonderful people doing wonderful things. I made this video for them last summer if you'd like to see more. That's my son in the green shirt. =)

On to the pictures. I'll start with one of my kids with Arthur. He is an adult with Autism. He works as a therapist at the CCAC and is an inspiration to all of us. I'd like to interview him and tell his story one day. I know a lot of it already, but I think it would be a fascinating project.

The FEAT booth.

I won't pretend to know the year and make of every car. I do know this is a Ford Thunderbird! Notice the hood is flipped open. See next photo for an idea of the paint jobs on these cars. 

This is my reflection in the hood. Amazing.

Ranchero. My brother owned one of these back in the day.

"HT MSTRD" was one of my favorites.

Tow Mater was there! 

Wait, check that. His brother Gus was there. While it was cool to see, it was like running into one of the lesser Baldwin brothers on the street. 

Not a seat belt in sight. Aaah...the good old days.

This was a very good year for me. 

Finally found a car for my daughter. 

And one for my wife.

The paint job on this next car probably cost more than my current car. Watch it change as I move. Incredible.

It appears as though someone familiar with a color wheel/color theory set these cars up.

The family. Photo courtesy of Arthur.

Looking back, I failed to get a single picture of any members of the Camtwisters! I apologize for that. I did get to personally thank a few of them for supporting Autism causes and I introduced my son to them.

They are a wonderful organization and as a parent, I'd like to thank them once again.