Sunday, 27 February 2011

Earlier Bird Gets the Truck Tour.

In December we saw an advertisement on the TV saying that the Ben10 truck tour was taking place in the UK. As you can imagine Jack was desperate to attend. We waited and we waited and tracked it on the website until the last Wednesday before Christmas only to find out that it was canceled due to bad weather. Jack took the news surprisingly well.

A few weeks later we received word that the canceled dates had been rescheduled for the middle of February, Jack immediately began counting down the hours.

We arrived 2 hours before it opened hoping to get in and out as quickly as possible, we had a busy day ahead of us. We'd skipped breakfast knowing that the parking lot was shared with a McDonalds. After having read the 'expect long queues' warning we'd planned to arrive 2 hours early, scout the situation and have a McDonalds breakfast while we waited. Don't judge us to wanting to arrive that early, as a parent you become very familiar with the concept of the earlier bird getting what is always a very limited number of worms before the early bird and subsequent later birds. It was a good thing we were that early too. When we got there there was already a queue, it didn't look particularly long so we went for breakfast first and just figured we'd monitor the queue and jump in if it started to get bigger. While in the queue we noticed the abundance of Ben10 garb on the children and got talking to the family behind us who had already been on the ride, they had opened it early. Great! So we ate our breakfast and jumped in line.

An hour later... we got to the ride, only 1 adult per child so Helen went with Jack while I watched on the TV's set up outside. The ride was about 10 or 15 minutes. Afterward Jack was given a Ben10 football and a photo opportunity with Humungousaur. As we left we noted that the line had grown somewhat. When we got in the queue there were maybe 100 people in front of us. When we left the queue extended past where we'd joined and extended all the way around the back of what is one of the bigger Toys R' Us stores that I know of. I'd have to say that there was somewhere around 600 people waiting. According to some staff the wait was around 4 and a half hours and, I'm not sure how true this is, apparently they only allow up to 1000 people to ride before they close up.

The tour itself was exactly what I expected. A simulator ride, character costumes and much Ben10 related paraphernalia that could fit on the back of a large truck. I must say that I was a little disappointed by the knowledge, or lack thereof, of the 'Plumbers' that were managing the ride. I heard several of the kids asking questions and it was pretty obvious that they hadn't done their research.

We asked one of the 'Plumbers' if this was Water Hazard or Bivalvan but I don't think she knew what we were talking about. She said Water Hazard.

Jack figured out that it wasn't really Water Hazard, just a man in a costume. Apparently there's a zipper on the back. I can't see it.

Inside the tunnel before the side.

Jack getting on the ride.

Wouldn't you know it. The moment Jack is on the ride Humungousaur comes out to see everyone.

Good thing he waited for us after the ride.

Hugging his favorite alien.
Jack had a great time, and is already asking when the tour is coming back.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Starting Line


I'm dyslexic. The official 'diagnosis' is literary dyslexia which put simply means that I can't read or write... My actual situation is quite a bit more complicated than that but that's not really why I'm writing this.

I've suspected that I'm dyslexic for some time now but it was only upon looking seriously at attending University that I really thought about getting assistance for it. I heard that support was offered and I figured 'what did I have to lose?'.

I have never really found the condition to be particularly debilitating, but then my school record it far from exemplary. I dare say that much of the trouble that I have now is possibly the result of my being aware of it. You hear people say stuff like 'Well at least I have a name for it now', well it's kinda like that but in the opposite direction to the context in which that phrase is normally used.  All the little things that I do that drive the people around me crazy are now put down to my being dyslexic rather than something like just not thinking or listening. At the same time, now that all of my teachers have been given my assessment I have found that I'm treated somewhat differently to how I was before. None of my teachers were told until about 7 weeks into the course so their change in behavior with regards to me was sudden and obvious. It's like some of them put on a pair of gloves before speaking to me now. Dyslexia has long been a polite word for idiot, as understanding of the condition has grown, it seems that it's only grown more polite.

Yesterday I had my needs assessment. This is effectively a long conversation with a specialist so that he/she can make recommendations as to equipment or techniques will help me with my studies. They have my initial assessment report in front of them and we discuss it, me, life, etc etc. The whole thing was very interesting to me, not only because the assessor was intriguingly humorless, but because of what she, as an expert, knew of the condition. The idea behind the whole program is to try to ensure that everyone starts at the same starting line, they give us access to things that other students wouldn't necessarily 'need' so that we don't fall behind. In my case I'm simply trying to disarm my tenancy to look for excuses.

A classmate of mine who is also dyslexic had his needs assessment last week and he found it really discouraging. He didn't realize just how much help he needed, despite his continuous efforts to counter the condition, he genuinely works really hard at continually practicing the things that dyslexics tend to struggle with. He came away with a needs list as long as his arm and couldn't help but feel... well stupid.

These are some of the things that can be recommended.
Dictation Software.
Text to Speech Software.
Colored overlays.
Tinted Glasses.
Specialist Tutors.
Printing Budget.
Colored Paper Budget.
Books Budget.
Extra Time for Exams.
Extra Time for Assignments.
Spelling Errors Allowance.
Grammar Errors Allowance.
A computer.
Access to Lecture notes and other such material before the class.

My classmate got the whole list, plus a few more that I can't recall just now, recommended for him. I can understand why he would feel discouraged. It's a bit eye opening when someone spells out exactly how much you struggle in such exacting detail.

I got everything on that list recommended, I turned down the readers and writers, having to tell someone what to write for me or likewise having someone reading to me is likely to end with some form of face punching. I can't say that I feel disheartened by this, as far as I'm concerned, the fact that I've done alright this far speaks for itself, the additional help can only be... helpful... It's not as disability in the sense that I can't do certain things, it just takes me longer. These recommendations are just to make sure I can keep up and while I'm doing alright now, it's been made pretty clear that's not likely to be the case for long.

One thing that surprised me somewhat but really shouldn't have, was the assessor pretty much scolding me for taking notes at lectures. Apparently this is the worst thing a dyslexic can do because it shuts down all the wrong areas of our brains. I'm now, upon pain of death, only to listen and record... With the dictaphone that I've not been given yet... I guess we'll see how that goes.

A dyslexic man walks into a bra.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Don't say it to Mommy.

Jack and I have some of our most profound conversations while shopping. While Helen locates all the bargains and chooses the best foods, Jack and I are in charge of the cart. We play and we talk, usually this is when our little teaching sessions take place.

Today Jack was asking for lots of things. He wasn't in the mood for any real conversation. We visited the toy isle as we usually do and Jack had spotted a toy gun that he wanted.

Daddy can I have one of those guns so that I can use it against you. It's nice to always be the first target.
Maybe some day.
Yeah for my birthday because that would be totally awesome.
Totally awesome huh.
Yeah TOTALLY AWESOME! Don't say that to mommy.
Don't say what to Mommy? Totally awesome?
Yeah. Don't tell her to that. Don't.
Why not?
Because she's just say it again and again and again.

Helen and I often muse that the adjectives that Jack uses and more often the methods in which he uses them.
That was a really darn it throw. -meaning that was a great throw.

Often we muse at him and sometimes we use these adjectives when speaking to him. I don't know why we do it, it's just funny I guess. It seems that he thinks Helen over does it.

Friday, 18 February 2011

2 years of nifty darn blogs.


It dawned on me today that I've been writing this blog now for 2 whole years.

Every now and then I read through my writings and am reminded of things I've forgotten, like Take This Toy or 2 Tales of 1 Jack.

I started writing things on Facebook notes over Christmas break 2 years ago. I'd been toying with the idea of starting a blog for a while by this point. I finally gave in with the justification that it would be about Jack, not me. Jack was two and I found something amusing in all the little games he was continually making up so I wrote it down in The Games He Plays. It was a great story to start with. Jack still does this. His latest creation is Ghost Cannonball, where I wrap him completely up in a towel, ball him up and toss him on the bed.

He still does many of the things that I've written about and hasn't for a long time done others, like The Barnacles Game. He pretty much stopped playing that the moment I wrote about it.

It's also been a good way of keeping track of events in my own life. While I try to keep this blog all about Jack, I have written a few non-Jack related posts. The drawn out loss of my job managed to make its way into a dozen or so posts. I look back at it now and, man that was drawn out over a very long time. In a few years can look back and see exactly when I started University and what I was thinking at the time. Helen's job loss is recorded and that he finding a new job came right down to the wire.

I've now written over 100 posts. That's 100 unique, or close to it, things about my son that I've had something to say about in just 2 years. I wonder sometimes if I'll run out of things to write and a couple of times I've been pretty convinced that I have, like right now for instance. Somehow Jack always manages to keep coming up with something new and I suppose new experiences will always be coming by. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

The site does alright for hits. I average around 200 hits a month which is better than most other web related things I've been involved with. I've run a lot of web related things over the years, most of which have ended being very self centered ranting boards that I've lost interest in after only a few months. I've currently got a number of other web logs running concurrently to this one but they keep getting set on the back burner as a result. Like a familiar guitar despite all the newer ones I may have, this is always the one I pick first.

I intend to carry on with this blog for as long as possible. With the recent arrival of some new software I'll have some literary experimenting to do over the next few weeks. All in all I've been very pleased with this blog and it's reception, it is my journal, it is my therapy and most importantly, it's served as a good window into and record of the early life of my boy.

Thanks to everyone who reads.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Sleeping noises.


It's regular for us to have mini sleep overs with Jack. This is where after Jack's bedtime story, we turn the lights down and pretend to sleep all in one bed for about 10 minutes. Often little time is spent sleeping at all, usually we end up goofing around until the mini sleep over is over.

On one such occasion Jack and I were on our own for the mini sleep over. We lay there in the dark pretending to sleep when my mischievous side got the better of me and I started making snoring noises. Jack tolerated this for a few minutes and then told me off.  
Daddy. You're supposed to be sleeping...
I am sleeping. *honk shew*
Yes but daddy. You don't make those noises when you sleep.
Sure you do.
Daddy. You don't.
Well what noises do you make?
You just make... You make this noise. *silence... You make that noise. Like this. *silence again. Like that.
Jack rolled over. After a few seconds I started increasing the volume of my breathing until it was a loud wheeze. Jack soon rolled back over impatiently.
Daddy. You don't make that noise either.
Was I making noise?
Yes. You were breathing. You were making a breathing noise. Don't make that noise anymore. He huffed and rolled over again. I plotted my next move. A few seconds passed and before I'd come up with another annoying noise to make Jack suddenly rolled him self over to face me again as if it had just occurred to him what he'd just told me. Keep breathing. You can keep breathing, just do it quietly.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Video Conferencing.


On Mondays Jack participates in a video conference. At bed time we get him washed and set the computer upstairs with an active login to skype running. At sometime around 7pm we answer a call from the US and the screen is filled with the loving faces of Jack's grandparents. They chit chat and Jack generally shows of a toy or teddy, then they get down to business. Grandma presents to Jack the bedtime story that she's going to read him. Jack sits quietly, eyes glued to the screen, listening Grandma's dramatic re-enactments or Grandpa doing the voices of the characters. I tell you it's just like he's sitting right there next to them.

This idea has been a long time in the making. My mother and I discussed the idea of some sort of regular calls with Jack months before the idea of video came to us. While visiting Utah I noted that my mother also had a Mac and casualy mentioned that we should video chat on iChat sometime. Well, that remark started the wheels turning and what started out as a well coordinated Christmas call, lead to a regular Sunday afternoon, morning for them, video conference call over Skype. It worked reasonably well but it usually resulted in Jack losing interest a minute or so in. So we changed the agenda from an afternoon call to a bedtime call, because Jack loved the stories read to him by Grandma and I figured why not continue? That way it would be more about Jack specifically than just a phone call.

Jack looks forward to his calls, every weekend or if he sees a picture of either of grandparent he starts asking when Grandma is going to call next and is delighted that he's generally not got long to wait.

I'm not generally one to go on about how thankful or blessed I am when it comes to things like this. But in this case I feel it's appropriate. In what other time was anything even remotely like this possible? A 4 year old boy can have his bedtime story read to him by his beloved grandparents, interactively, in person and in real time, with 6000 miles between them.