Saturday, June 28, 2008


I had just wheeled Desty over to the side door of our van, she climbed in and Dustin was approaching. Benny, who was standing on the driveway beside me, suddenly raised his hand as to signal HALT, and screamed
It was one of those moments that took Dustin and I by surprise. Dustin was clueless and just stood looking at his boy as if he had lost his marbles. Benny: "NATURE, DAD, NATURE!" pointing to the cement below. I put it together and realized that Benny was trying to protect an ant from being squashed by Dad's Crocs.

Kids! We have been talking a lot about nature, insects, animals, the habitat, etc. A few days before, I was at a loss of words when Benny asked me why we don't kill bugs that are outside. (Okay, so we are not perfect, we abolish bugs that are in the house!) And so I said, "They're nature; they are part of nature". I guess he took it to heart!

Last Monday, 6/23, we went hiking on Mesa Trail after a quiet and yummy picnic lunch.

Our first time hiking on the south end of Boulder's famous Flatirons was absolutely enchanting, with new scenery over every hill and around every bend. At the beginning of the trail, we crossed a rushing South Boulder Creek, and we were able to find still water for the kids to wade in. As we proceeded up the trail, I began singing "the Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Music..." I'm guessing we hiked ~1.5 miles, and along the way the kids climbed big boulders, listened to birds singing, saw bunnies, dodged butterflies, and explored interesting flowers and plants.

Both Benny and Desty have what I call "Dino-itis"... Benny found this rock with what he thought was a giant footprint on top of it. Naturally, I suggested it was a dinosaur footprint, and boy, what an exhilarating hike we had then. Desty kept shouting, "Boy, SHHHHH! The dinosaurs will eat you!" He, of course, didn't believe her. If you've never heard a 3.5 year old say Paleontologist, you're missing out!

On Tuesday we went to the Denver Zoo and covered most of its 80 acres of animal wonderland. It was hot - very hot! And the rest of my family was relieved we couldn't go home because our Rug Doctor was making our carpets beige again. So we wondered around for five hours. Desty's interest lies in the smaller, less intimidating creatures, like birds, little fox-like furry things and fish. Benny prefers "big, mean, ferocious, scary, sharp teeth animals". Benny and I actually watched two brown bears quarreling - okay, they were fighting and looked just like Benny and Desty - teeth and all! It was, without a doubt, the coolest thing I've ever seen at a zoo! Unfortunately, there's no video of it. Desty really liked the bird (pictured to the right) and would've spent all day with it if we had let her. Dustin took 75 pictures of animals at the zoo. That same evening we had a lovely picnic in our backyard with two of our amigos bueno.

On Thursday, Benny and I had a five hour adventure while Dustin, an amigo bueno and Desty did major house cleaning. Benny and I ate lunch and played at PlayGround Cafe (I prefer fast food Playlands!), then basically took an extended hiking tour of northwest boulder, along the foothills. We played at four parks and one lake, and an exhausted boy fell asleep in my lap on the bus ride home.

Friday night was date night for Dustin and I. No more than a mile south of our house, hides a Boulder secret: a wildlife and wetlands park and (murky) pond! It is really neat because you know not what you'll find, ranging from insects and fish to slimy reptiles. We are pretty sure we found a snake lurking on a log in the shallow muck. We difiniately found turtles, fish, birds, butterflies and dozens of dragonflies and mosquitos. Oh, and it seems we found Dustin's reflection also!

Join us as we experience "nature"!

You can click the image below for an album

"Dad! Don't Step On Nature! album

Tomorrow is the last day of my summer vacation. I took eight wonderful weeks off to play, hike, find a preschool and sleep - oh, the life! My goal was to take advantage of every second before Summer term starts. And I did! As the vibrant summer life of your favorite Mom On WheelZ comes to a close, we have our memories... JUST KIDDING! I may be taking Accounting I and II combined into one 8 week course, AND Business Research at the same time, but THE FUN SHALL NOT DIE!!!!!!!! And, if all goes as planned, I will be finished with my classes in mid-October and roll down the aisle on December 15th, 2008!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Folllowing My Child

My least interactive blog to date, but an update that is due

In 1950, Dr Maria Montessori wrote:

"It is not enough to be well intentioned and perceptive. Love is dynamic. If we love someone, we want to do something for him. If we love the child, we must realise that he has been neglected and forgotten in a world very rich in varied and beautiful things that are superfluous. We must therefore follow a new and
wider path. This will not only make the child happier but will be a source of
unimagined wealth and glory for our own lives.
I agree, and I love much of what Montessori offers. However, let it be known that I have purposefully denied Maria Montessori as a Saint or some Educational Prophet worthy of worship. Benny's first year of preschool was definitely a strange experience for Dustin and I, and somewhat of a preschool boot camp for Benny.

Choice in education for my children is extremely important to me - I, personally, did not have any options besides inner-city, S. California schools growing up and it was anything but a positive experience. With significant Cerebral Palsy, you can imagine how I was treated.

I surprise myself with my strong views on education. I think part of it comes from my personal educational experience, the indirect influence of my good friend’s very successful Integrated Thematic Instruction home school, and my natural soaring love for my kids. And, the older they get, the stronger my feelings become.

I have multiple fears about my children being in school. These fears range from the obvious – school violence, drugs and lack of learning – to the not-so-obvious - child labeling (i.e., bored and active interpreted as “Problem Child” or artistic as “inattentive and careless”) and overstimulation. Perhaps a very unique fear I have regarding my children being in school, is that other children's innocent ignorance of disability is going to be transferred to them. I don't get angry being called a "Retard", but the idea of my children getting "Your Mama's a Retard and so are you!" makes my blood boil.

I feel that it is my duty to place my kids in the most diverse and consciously aware educational environment, hoping that it protects them just a little bit. I also have strong feelings about learning as a natural progression that kids can initiate, if not stapled to a desk. I could go on but I'll spare you ;-)

For more than a year and a half before Benny would begin preschool, I did in-depth research on varying educational methods and schools. In the end it was the Montessori Method that meshed with the values we hope to instill in our kids and in our parenting approach. We agree with much of the Montessori approach and philosophy, such as the emphasis on independence and self-direction.

Community Montessori seemed like the perfect choice for Benny. A Montessori Pre-K – 5th grade elementary school, the only public Montessori school in Boulder Valley School District, high ratings and test scores, and if Benny could get in, it would be FREE for him through a BVSD scholarship.

Benny won the lottery for CM, and we were elated, to say the least. We wanted to see the class he would be in, meet his teacher, but it was a pretty closed off system. We attended every public CM orientation/tour and not once did we see his class or meet a Pre-K teacher. That bothered me especially. We finally met Benny's teacher at an open house shortly before the school year began. She seemed firm and we initially thought she'd be a good teacher for Benny. We thought she'd get to know me and all would be well.

We thought it was great that he would have the same teacher for three years in a row…Until his teacher turned out to be a Montessori Untouchable. Past retirement age, she was really set in her ways and seemed to have a prescribed mold for:
1) a Montessori preschooler/kindergartener,
2) a Montessori parent, and
3) a “Montessori family”

None of us fit the molds - we felt and were treated like misfits. Her approach did not fit with our understanding of what Montessori was about. Our diverse family scared her, I believe, and Benny is many things but he’s no conformist. His class was incredibly solemn and almost robotic. CM is touted as the only “literacy-based preschool” in Boulder County, as opposed to “play-based preschools”. Does that mean there should be no play? No socialization, even, from 7:50a.m. – 10:00a.m. when an incredibly reserved circle time begins? Come on people!

My first concern was lack of feedback and involvement. We never knew what he was working on, and I’m sure it was moreso for us because his teacher was so uncomfortable with me. That was incredibly frustrating! And parents were very discouraged from entering the classroom at drop-off and it wasn’t an option at pick-up. His teacher seemed to avoid me like the plague. So much for being involved! I must say I entered that darn classroom each and every morning at drop-off, and no one dared say a word to me about it! I’m not leaving my preschooler on the sidewalk!

Many of Benny’s fellow students did conform – some were in their second and third year in her class – but Benny and a handful of others were constantly in trouble. Benny’s first progress report last fall read, among other things: "Benny is well advanced in major areas of practical life and enjoys looking at different curriculum. Benny is impulsive, and tries to manipulate curriculum that he has not yet been instructed on." That is a negative to his teacher. He's three, oh my gosh! He is required to go find focused work to do, so why shouldn't he try to teach himself?! His last progress report centered on Benny being too social.

To make it worse, since Benny’s slot was funded by BVSD, they required special forms and evaluations to be completed by the teacher periodically. These included both student and parent goal-making and very intrusive questions. Okay, WHY, if a parent is low-income, is it automatically assumed they are abusive, neglectful, and incompetent as parents? During parent/teacher conference, I had 20 minutes to find out how and what Benny was doing, try to build a relationship with a supreme being that had long-before set her prejudices in stone about us and couldn’t understand me, and complete these district evals with her. Uttttttttter disaster! We didn’t even meet the last time.

I regretted putting him in (SURPRISE!) by early December, but if we took him out, he'd never get in as a 1st grader. Kids that don't enroll at 3, usually lose the lottery for several consecutive years before they get into CM..... We were hostages of the district, and of his teacher because Benny would be in her class for three years.

Late fall ‘07, there was a parent education night. Instead of educating us on what our kids were working on, it was more like a Dr. Maria Montessori memorial service. It creped Dustin and I out....seemed kinda cultish to us. The teachers worship her. I understand respect; I understand gratitude, but not devotion to that extreme. It crepes me out just remembering the experience. Uck!

Our relationship with his teacher further deteriorated this spring. Benny began saying things like, “(teacher's name) didn’t make me reset today”, “I had to reset 3 times because I couldn’t find work”, etc. What the hell is ‘reset’, and why didn’t we know about it? If she had communicated her new disciplinary tool to us, that would’ve been one thing. There was no communication! None! Zilch! One day after school, Benny was particularly stressed. Turned out she screamed at him “RESET” and was very mad at him for approaching her while she worked with another student.

The next day I insisted on observing the class. "Reset" is similar to timeout, I learned, and basically calls for silence or order. I saw a mix of recognition and nervousness in children’s eyes as she called their name to work with her. She was actually respectfully affectionate with some children; my child not being a chosen, I guess. Benny came to me to ask what work he could do multiple times, and was clearly fearful of his teacher. I wanted to cry! I watched two kindergartener boys hopping in a circle hand-in-hand, singing ABC’s, and I saw the teacher hammer/humiliate them in front of everyone because that was a task they had mastered. (I had been enjoying the sign of life!)

Thus began my official quest for a new preschool!


I never thought I’d be saying this, but here goes it: Benny’s going to private school.

His new school is called Sunflower Preschool and it’s located right in our neighborhood (just .42 miles away). The founder/director decided to take the basic Montessori approach and combine it with a hands-on science-based curriculum. Kids are encouraged to learn through dramatic play, and the classrooms are just stunning! And the outdoor classroom is unbelievable. We’ve dropped in unexpectedly several times to find happy children supported by 3 – 5 teachers. The children socialize with each other and with the teachers – a welcoming sight and sound from a preschool! We’ve seen parents read books with their kids when dropping them off, push swings, etc.

Five good signs:
1) The teachers, children and parents that we have met haven’t been phased by us
2) The director asked me to attend a staff mtg “to educate us about yourself and keep open communication”
3) We get to go hang out at the preschool in July to make it a comfortable transition
4) Attendance at Back 2 School Night is required
5) Check out the Ramp

LOLOL Can you tell I’m ‘coop mom’ material? (We have a cooperative K – 8 lined up!)

The most amazing part…I found a way to pay for it! Freeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwww!

We’ll see how Benny’s second year of preschool goes!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day Hike 2008


For an album, click here
Father's Day Hike 2008

To celebrate this special day for Daddy, we packed a yummy lunch, drove up Flagstaff Road and had a picnic lunch and hike. We ate lunch at Flagstaff's Sunrise Ampitheater, which was made accessible just a few years ago after a two year Boulder ADAPT campaign. Thanks Comrades! The ramp is remarkable, and the view is breathtaking!

We are proud parents today - we are always proud parents, but today is one of those days when as parents, we realize more fully that our babies are really turning into adorable, fun-loving, opinionated, independent children. This was our first family hike with two fairly independent little hikers - no strollers, no wagons, no bottles, no binkies getting lost, no snacks demanded and absolutely no screaming resembling these dreaded words: I WANT OUT! I thought I'd died and gone to mommy heaven! The only, infrequent, screams came from mostly me: HIKING IS NOT RUNNING! HIKING IS WALKING!

The kids led the way for over 1/2 a mile to the end of the accessible Ute Trail. The hike produced only two bloody knees - two out of eight is good! Desty tripped over a boulder almost as tall as she at the very start of the hike, and tripped about half a dozen times thereafter, minus the tears. Benny took off at a run near the end, immediately falling and skinning his knee. "The boy" (as Desty calls him) appeared personally betrayed both by nature and his own legs! LOL Bloody knee, tears, and the shrieking terror abruptly came to a halt when he saw his friendly stick he had dropped in the fall.

Benny has always been intrigued by cameras. When he turned two, we ordered a frog camera for him off of ebay and he would constantly take our picture. Last summer, we got a new digi camera, and Benny realized that his didn't really work. Today, Daddy finally handed our camera over to Benny's dirt-covered little hands, and "the boy" took this picture of his father... I suspect the Burton's will have competing camera men very shortly! :-)

On the return hike, the little people must've been pooped because mommy cuddles were in, and using ther two good feet was out. Before you watch these two videos that follow, note that I'm using a back-up chair. (My other two chairs need repaired!) I call this power chair the Tank because it just plows everything with its unmatchable power. One of the two chairs I bought very used for Power Soccer, the Tank got my friend, Lori, all over DC last month, and my friend, Julie, all over New York. Unfortunately, the Tank needs a new seatbelt, and little makes me more nervous on a mountain than being without a seatbelt. Add children in tow, and my unfamiliarity with the Tank, and I tend to freak within a foot of a trail's edge. That all said, these videos are hilarious!

In the second clip, I said: "This is what ADAPT is gonna be like in September, '08...Free Our People!" Yes, we are ALL going to DC this fall! Desty's listening better, I can handle either her or Benny now, and briefly both (and it'll keep Daddy outta trouble! LOL ;-)~ Dustin sure loves the end of this clip!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Utah and Coincidences -- a Greenish Collaboration by Tammy and Dustin

Hats Off To Utah - As told by Tammy
Okay! It is no secret – I greatly dislike Utah (and the pissing off begins! ;-) I lived in the state from 2001 – 2006, and a practicing Mormon or not, I could hardly stand it. Being married in Utah, and a Mom On WheelZ in Utah merely cemented my discontent for strong Utah culture. [NOTE: The culture is very related to, but independent of “the Church”. The culture is Utah and crosses religious borders] When we were moving to Colorado, a dear friend advised us, “Don’t think it’s going to be greener on the other side.” Colorado has certainly proven greener than Utah, in just about every way imaginable. I am proud to report that our dear friend agrees.

I have so much freedom and independence here, I’m valued as a woman, wife and mother, and generally my presence does not alarm people here. By "here" I'm probably referring to the Metro Denver area. While far from perfect, the intensity of paternalism and discrimination that my family encounters here is minuscule to that in Utah. It is very difficult for me to visit Utah and put my “freak of nature/invalid” hat back on. It is a distinct transformation that begins just north of Fort Collins, CO in rural America. Wyoming is especially hard for me to travel through, as we make frequent stops along I-80 and folks are apparently stricken as my deformed mouth opens to speak. It is somewhat of a brutal introduction of the worst I can expect during my stay in Utah. Okay, no holding back…I hate it! After a taste of Colorado, Dustin hates it moreso. But we travel this route two to three times a year because Desty and Benny need to visit family. Many of our close friends from Utah travel here to visit, sometimes several times a year. But the kids need to go to Mee-maw’s house.

So, last Thursday, June 5th, we made the trek to Salt Lake City for the second annual kid weekend at Mee-maws. The kids stay at Mee-maws, and Dustin and I find our own accommodations. We spent Thursday evening and Friday morning in Salt Lake. I grew frustrated speedily as my attempts to do business were met with people walking away or ignoring me and speaking to Dustin. It wasn’t long, though, before we left the Great Valley for higher ground. We decided to take the opportunity to celebrate our FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY with three nights at a luxurious country resort in Midway, Utah. True, our half decade mark is not until next month, but it was a great excuse! As it turns out, I love Midway! Beautiful, peaceful and for some reason I cannot pinpoint, the folks both at the resort and in town readily accepted Dustin and I. It was nice, really nice. For just $119/night, we had amazing accommodations, spectacular scenery and friendly hospitality.

Okay! Yes, I dogged Utah and yes, I feel better, however, on a positive note: I have never seen Wyoming or Utah green until this trip! Utah, even the Salt Lake valley, was beautiful. The Wasatch Front was green! I was impressed. Let it rain!

I’ll close this blog with an admittedly crazy piece Dustin wrote up about some of the coincidental happenings of our stay…and an invitation to click here to view some pics from our weekend getaway.

An Evening of Coincidences – As recalled by Dustin It happened on the evening of Saturday June 7th, 2008. Tammy and I had just returned to the Homestead “One of America’s Classic Country Resorts” after an exclusive horse and carriage tour of Soldier Hollow – a quiet venue which hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. This horse and carriage ride is available through Rocky Mountain Outfitters. In the winter, they actually come to the Homestead and have runners instead of wheels.

Our plans for the evening included (1) checking out the famous “Crater” – an onsite 65 foot deep, natural warm water mineral dome where you can swim and scuba, (2) grabbing a bite to eat probably at Fanny’s, the only onsite restaurant and (3) finding out what other units at the resort were level entry and wheelchair accessible (since we’d noticed quite a few). Our simple plans got a jolt!

Walking toward the Lobby which was across the Main Lawn from our Guest House, our ears heard a band setting up and testing their sound system. At the Front Desk, we signed up for Brunch at Simon’s Restaurant (ok, so technically there are two on-site restaurants but Simon’s is only open for Sunday Brunch). Additionally at the Front Desk, we tried to learn more about wheelchair accessible and level entry units available at the Homestead, but eventually learned we knew more than they did (I plan to write them a letter because the resort is very wheelchair friendly and they could really promote that fact because it’s hard to find accessible inns).

On the counter I noticed a list of free concerts being held at the Homestead during Summer 2008 and next to the date of June 7th, I saw the familiar name of Cherie Call. This is the first coincidence of the evening. When I worked at Deseret Book, I had become a big fan of Cherie and purchased two of her CD’s. I had met Cherie in person five years previously and even given a Cherie Call CD to Tammy as a Christmas Gift before we got married.

So, we thought we’d continue to the “Crater” and then return and listen to part of the concert. However, coincidence struck for the second time as I glanced over and saw a familiar profile. I looked closer and told Tammy, “that man looks a lot like Bishop Cutler.” Tammy zoomed over and sure enough it was our good friends the Cutlers. While the Cutler’s knew we were in Utah and even knew that we were staying in Midway, they did not know we were staying at the Homestead and we already had plans to meet them in Salt Lake on Monday for lunch – this was quite the surprise!

It turned out the Cutlers happen to know Cherie pretty well and they had received an e-mail update that she would be having a concert at the Homestead in Midway, so they headed up the mountains. When we approached the Cutlers, they were talking to Cherie and her family so they introduced us and it turned out Cherie remembered me from meeting her five years previously. We stayed about an hour at the concert sitting next to the Cutlers (in the COLD!) until our tummies told us to get our fannies to Fanny’s Restaurant!

During the concert a third coincidence occurred when Cherie Call sang a Mary Chapin Carpenter song called Halley Came To Jackson.
This is a Coincidence because I wasn’t expecting it, Mary Chapin Carpenter is my favorite of favorite musical artists and because people just don’t sing Mary Chapin Carpenter songs enough! As we were finishing our meal at Fanny’s, the Cutler’s joined us with hot cocoa and the next day we were able to fully explore the famous “Crater”!

On the subject of Coincidences – earlier in the day, we were able to visit the Art Gallery and Studios of Robert Duncan, one of our favorite artists who just happens to live in Midway. We didn’t realize his studio was in Midway until we found a brochure in The Homestead Lobby. We were able to purchase two prints and several cards which we will matt and frame at a later time. Also, coincidently, after Robert Duncan Studios, we were able to find a very accessible and quiet little restaurant in Midway called the Cuckoo Café where we met my sister and her new husband.

Our experience in Midway, Utah was Amazing! A quiet, country Swiss village close to all the big stuff! If you’re thinking of staying in Midway or at the Homestead Resort, I’d say it’s a fantastic idea. And while you’re there you might as well check out a décor store called “All That Stuff in the Barn” where we purchased a wooden plaque that says “Our Family is a Circle of Love” for our wall. Coincidently, this plaque has picture openings for four photographs.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Summer Activity Blast-Off

Monday was the official start of summer for my family. For Mom, it felt more like a space shuttle blast-off! The day’s activities began with Benny’s Tumble Bear gymnastics class at Airborne Gym in Longmont. Last summer he took the Toddler Bears tumbling in which Dustin and I participated, but this is different. Benny is on his own, accompanied by two instructors and about nine preschoolers. I was honestly a little worried about him being wild and out of control in such an exciting setting, but my child astonished me. Benny was amazing, and, in fact, a leader. This is something he has begged to do since the first mention of summer approaching – he initiated it, and I believe he is very confident in his choice!

We decided to put Desty in Toddler Bears. She's a performer, dancing around in her own little cute world. We figured she’d either love the class, or ignore everyone and do her own thing. We also think she could use a little structured time around other tots in an environment where she could perform. Her class is right after Benny’s, so, unfortunately I don’t get to participate or watch, because I’m off with Benny. Here’s what Dustin has to say about his little girl’s first gymnastics class: ”Destiny was bouncing with enthusiasm. She wore her little pink gymnastics outfit all day. During the class she raced through the activities, meeting each new experience with a smile and two quick feet!” Unfortunately, he forgot it should’ve been a Kodak moment ;-)~

While Destiny and Daddy were jumping, bouncing, balancing on beams, doing forward rolls, and other assorted activities, Mommy and Benny went exploring! I must say, I have a new-found respect for Longmont, Colorado. Not two blocks west of the gym, we discovered an adventure goldmine: Fairgrounds Park and Lake and the St. Vrain Greenway! We were having so much fun “hiking” and discovering fascinating rocks, trails, ducks, bridges, birds, following a creek, and planning for next week’s picnic, we lost track of time and had to race back in time to meet Desty and Daddy.

After lunch, Benny went to his first private music lesson. LOLOL This lesson takes place in Thornton, Colorado, approximately 20 miles from here. Not just any teacher, Jen is married to a guy who I have known since he was ~10 years old and I ~12 years old. Joe and I had an odd sort of semi-sibling love/hate (unfortunately mostly hate!) thing going on as older teens when I lived with his family for awhile. But opening day of Elitch Gardens ‘til closing day, we seemed to find sudden value for each other! ;-) Music is important to me, and if anyone can creatively help our kids find love for music, it’s someone in Joe’s family. Benny came out of his lesson just beeming and could hardly wait to share his music work folder with us. Quite a change from the “I did nothing” report after a day of preschool! Later, I asked him if he liked his teacher, and he all he said was: “I love her!” And for that, I love her! And tonight, when we sung our family theme song, Benny really tried to sing.

Mondays are our big day this summer. On Tuesday mornings here in Boulder, Benny has survival swimming and on Thursday mornings, Desty does. I like my home - home is stable, secure and a great place to play and learn. But in my situation I use activities to supplement what I'm not able to teach them. Obviously, I don't want them singing like I sing, and I'm not a great example of coordination. I love the fact that both my kids can swim and/or potentially save themselves in a water accident, where I probably couldn't save them. Dustin is my hero and a great father, but he's not a natural at teaching the kids to do active things...He never played sports or music...his hobbies are reading, writing and baking. He handles the baking and lit lessons, the family weeding and he's the expert fake tent maker, and I head the music and sports committee. In the house, we play "knee soccer", otherwise, I take Benny to the ball field and drive my chair around kicking the ball as Benny runs. I have a friend who likes to play ball with him in our backyard. So I supplement creatively. If I could do more things, I'd probably do them at home and save lots of money! With deep discounts and commitment, though, it works for us!