She’s in China – Part 1

For years, a running joke in our home has been….. when anyone asks…..

“Where is _______?”

The answer is “China.”

Teddy Bear? China. Dinner? China. Grandma? China. Gym socks? China.

You have no idea how strange it is to have Faith ask me “Where is Sizza?” (That is her name for Andrea) and have me answer “China!” and be telling the truth.

Andrea has been in China for a month now. Yowza.

Here are a few highlights of her adventure so far:

Andrea ¬†vs. China –

I am visiting the Great Wall tomorrow and was possibly overcharged by a sketchy cab driver. More to come…

Today I visited the Ming Tombs (a big pile o’dirt with cool buildings in front of it) and went to the jade emporium (I now know how to spot fake jade). Additional tidbit, the Great Wall is made up of steps across the top, lots and lots of steps. It’s not flat like they make it look like on Mulan and Scooby Doo. ūüėČ

We had Peking roast duck. You take the duck and put this sauce on it with onions and wrap it up in this tortilla looking thing, it was really really good. We also hit up the Silk Market and tested our bargaining skills.

The food today was weird… they brought out like whole fishes and things that look like vomit. The other meats still had bones in them, so needless to say, I didn’t eat too much.

Yesterday we went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It was really good. Tiananmen Square was really big, and there were soooo many people. I had no idea it would be so busy. THe Forbidden City was pretty cool to see the imperial palace. We also went to the temple of heaven, it was really nice. I’ll just have to send you pictures, they’re hard to explain. The architecture is just really nice and with such attention to detail, it just amazes me that they built those things that long ago.

We took the train for 10 hours. We got to our hotel in Dalian this morning (turns out we are not staying in the dorms, I guess because they don’t have air conditioning) its ummmm an experience. So the room is tiny, the bed is an anorexic twin. There’s no closet space (well a tiny amount). The air conditioning certainly doesn’t work that well. It’s by a busy road. We’re on the 5th floor, with no elevator. And the bathroom, o the bathroom.

There is no wifi, I’m currently using an ethernet cable that is so short I have to sit on the floor, and is broken, so when I want to go to a web page, I physically have to push it in. lol. I’m excited though, we’ll start classes on Monday, so far no one here speaks any english, and the signs don’t have english on them, so we’ll really be practicing. I’ve already found that it’s not quite as difficult as I thought it would be, so we’ll see how classes go though.

Yesterday we toured the city with some Chinese students, it was interesting. My girl was really nice and sent me some CHinese music to listen to, it was awesome

We went to XingHai square, the largest square in China. There is also a beach there, but its like Seattle beaches in that it’s rocks.. but it was still nice. So now I’ve been in the Pacific on the other side of the world. lol. The water was actually really clear and blue, which surprised me, so I guess there isn’t too much pollution here in Dalian, which makes sense due to its location.

Classes have been pretty hard. its 4 straight hours, and only 2 classes each day… yikes. At first it was all gibberish, since the classes are taught solely in Chinese. But as more and more classes have gone by, I’m understanding more and more.. so I think by the end I’ll have it down.. My reading/writing probably won’t improve as much as my listening/speaking.. since that’s mostly what I’m doing right now is listening… I haven’t been doing a whole lot of talking yet… mostly bc I only understand about half of what people say.

I went ziplining across the bay, it was AWESOME! You could see so far and it was a ton of fun, well worth the 80 yuan I paid, which is less than $15. lol. I was pretty nervous… but in China they don’t let you wimp out of stuff lol. Some of the people went bungee jumping before, and some girl was chickening out, and they just pushed her off the platform.. lol.

It feels awkward so….

…I am only going to mention this a couple of times.

We have created a ChipIn account to help with the travel expenses we will incur while training with Faith’s service dog.

We will be traveling, probably by plane, to Ohio. We will then need to stay in a hotel for two weeks while we ¬†train with Faith’s new canine partner and learn to work together as a team.

I will have a little widget thingy on the side bar of Mommy Rambles….scroll down a bit to see it.

You can also access the page directly through this link:

4 Paws 4 Faith Chip In Page

Thank you.

Reach for the sky!

This past Sunday we did something I did not think we would ever be able to do.

We reached for the sky….

When our oldest three children were younger, we thoroughly enjoyed attending events and special productions. Fireworks, movies, concerts, even amusement parks. It was fun for all of us and made for some amazing family memories.

But then Faith was born and things got a lot more complicated. Suddenly we had to factor in so much more into “simple” family fun.

Would the time interfere with medication schedules?

Did it involve any waiting?

Loud noises?

Bright lights?

How fast could we get out if needed?

One of the places you DON’T want to be with a child in sensory overload, screaming, thrashing, and vomiting is on a tiny passenger ferry in the middle of Charleston Harbor. Trust me on this one.

Faith is 8 now and we have made some great leaps this year. Her ability to reason has increased greatly. Imaging trying to reason with a 2 year old and a 3 year old. You can fa-get-ta-bout-it with the 2 year old, but you might, just might have a slim chance with the 3 year old. This year Faith has been more like a three year old.

When we were given the chance to see Disney on Ice – Toy Story 3, my knee jerk reaction was “No”. We don’t DO things like that.

But then a tiny, probably heavily medicated, part of me thought….”Why not try….?”

We chose not to tell Faith about our upcoming adventure. We know that time is very hard for her to understand and if she is anticipating an event, it becomes an¬†obsession. She will hyper focus on the event and to be honest….make it pretty miserable for all around her.

The morning of the event (We chose the 11:30 showing since it would not interfere with any medications) we told her that we needed to get dressed and she needed to choose a few toys to take in our special travel bag because we were heading to the city. We reassured her that we were not going to the doctor and that it was just a fun trip. She willingly got in the car Рthat can be a challenge at times Рfirst hurdle cleared!

She was anxious during the ride to Kent because going in the car on a Sunday morning is not part of our normal routine.

The drive to Showare Center is about 1 1/2 hours. Right at the very end we began to lose her. She was starting to stim and repeat “comfort” phrases. That usually means we are at critical mass and about to explode. Right as she began make the squeaky noises that we know precede a full blown meltdown she spotted this:

“It’s Jessie! It’s Woody! It’s Buzz! Mommy look! Look! Look!”

As we pulled into Showare, we hung Faith’s handicap tag up and were¬†immediately¬†directed to the handicap parking. Easy and fast. As we stopped, a parking attendant¬†approached¬†the car to make sure we were ok and could handle unloading. What great service! At this point we chose to not bring in Faith’s wheelchair. The distance to the door was manageable and we felt that Faith was rested enough to manage that walk. We walked to “Will Call”. It was a very short, easy to manage walk and we encountered no line.

However, by the time we reached Will Call, Faith was struggling. At that point I asked at the window if we could change our seats to ones with no steps to help Faith as much as possible. I offered to show the ticket person our disabled card but she didn’t need to see it. After a small switcheroo, we had our ADA seats and we entered.

The lights and noise and general¬†commotion caused some hesitancy at first. Faith was moving slowly and seemed very anxious.¬†¬†In order to refocus and direct her I used the old parenting standby…..the bribe.

Look! A Jessie dolly! Just what you were going to ask Santa for! Would you like one? 

She handled the commotion around the vendor very well and even, with some prompting, asked for the Jessie all by herself.

Jessie in hand we resumed our walk to our ADA seats. The directions and signs were very clear and we found the right section with no issues. As soon as we showed our tickets, the usher walked us right to our area and made sure we had what we needed to be comfortable.

At this point she was calm but it became apparent that we were on thin ice. Lots of yelling, excited children, vendors walking around with spinning lights and food, loud music. Faith began to hyper focus on the hats for sale. It seemed that every kid there was either wearing a Woody or a Jessie hat.

“Where’s my hat? Mom? Where’s my hat? Dad? Where’s my hat…….”

Don’t judge me.

When the lights went down, she reached for my hand. Scared but excited. The bright lights were not too much of a distraction and while they did move around a lot, did not seem to bother her as much as I thought they might. The music and voices were at a loud, yet tolerable level. She only had to cover her ears a couple times. And her wonder….her wonder was infectious.

“Look! It’s my toys! They came to alive!”

My only real complaint about this entire day is this….this picture below is what the view is for a handicap child who is unable to stand up for any length of time. This is what Faith’s view was:

The ADA seating was right at the ice, however there were several additional rows of seats actually on the ice. And the children in those seats, like the rest of the arena, were encouraged to stand and dance part way through the show. Once they rose from their seats, the ADA seating was blocked. Faith was able to see tiny snitches and glimpses of the show, but since she was unable to stand, she mostly listened.

The voices were dead on for the movie and the story line was right on with parts of all three movies. The special effects were fun and not scary. The “fog” was not overpowering and did not have a funny smell. The cast tried very hard to engage the crowd and made a point to wave and smile at the kids (who could see….).

As we exited she saw a flyer for Phineas and Ferb On Ice. A little voice beside me asked….”Can we see Perry?”

Maybe kiddo…..

{disclosure: Mommy Rambles was given tickets to Disney on Ice – Toy Story 3. However I was not asked to write a review and all thoughts and opinions are my own}

My John Hancock

My first bloggity thing – part 2. I did it! #ACTIgames4girls

Part 2:

If ¬†you have been following my adventures so far….

Thanks for reading! You are awesome!


So, we made it to the Hyatt, handed the (please don’t run out of gas) van over to the valet and¬†after¬†taking a deep breath…walked inside.

We found the elevator and made it to the right floor. Then we proceeded to try and join the veterinarian conference also taking place on that floor.

Uhhh…wrong group.

A very sweet waiter pointed us to the right conference room.

Walking through those giant, fancy-schmancy doors was one of the scariest things I’ve done.

OMG. OMG. OMG. I can’t do this. I can’t not do this. I can’t do this.

Then I’m pretty sure Alane pushed me inside.

¬†I must have been sporting the “deer in the headlights” look because as soon as Jenny¬†spotted me, she ¬†came right over and gave me a hug.

You have NO idea how much I needed that.

Ok, I’m¬†through¬†the doors, still breathing, I have a few familiar faces….

You know the scene when the new kid goes to the empty cafeteria table? Yeah. That was me.

But it’s all good….because I was there!

Now on to the important stuff, why the heck was I there anyway?

The Activision Games For Girls Summit is exactly what it sounds like. A summit of people, mostly moms, getting together to talk about video games for girls. This particular summit focused on 6 games in particular:¬†Lalaloopsy,¬†Zoobles,¬†Wappy Dog,¬†ZhuZhu Babies,¬†Moshi Monsters: Moshling Zoo,¬†Squinkies 2: Adventure Mall Surprize!¬†. I will review the details about each game one by one in upcoming posts. During the summit we learned quite a bit about the¬†positive¬†side of gaming for girls. Some of the facts that stood out the most to me…

  • ¬†Games provide us with the 4 ingredients that make for a happy meaningful life
    • Satisfying work
    • Real hope for success
    • Strong social connections
    • A chance to become a part of something bigger than ourselves
  • Games create a positive mindset and making them more resilient in the face of failure
    • Gamers spend 80% of their time failing
    • We like and trust someone after we‚Äôve played a game with them
    • More likely to help someone in real life after we‚Äôve helped them in an online game
    • 40% of time on Facebook is spent playing social games

(40%????? Really? Wow, that’s a lot of Mafia Wars and Farmville!)

Video games aren’t just hard, they’re adaptively hard

  • Keep people at the edge of their abilities and push them further
  • Adaptive challenge is stunningly powerful for learning, according to John Gabrieli, a neuroscientist at MIT.
  • ¬†Faster reaction times
  • Increased hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity
  • Increased spatial skills
  • Ability to divide and switch attention, pay attention to more than one object/person

Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life study (Feb 2011): girls who play video games with a parent enjoyed a number of advantages.

  • Behave better
  • Feel more connected to their families
  • Have stronger mental health
Did you know all that? I had no idea. I just knew that Faith had a lot of fun playing. :)
Watch for some FUN giveaways in the coming weeks!
Want one?
{Mommy Rambles received a bag of goodies at the Activision Games for Girls event. I was not asked to write about my experience, nor was I compensated for this campaign.} 

My first bloggity thing- Part 1 – What an adventure! #ActivisionGames4Girls

Part 1:

When I began this adventure about a year ago, I didn’t know where it would lead.

Faith was in need of a new car seat, but due to her size, she had outgrown all conventionally produced seats. That narrowed my choices from 4000 seats, to about 4 special needs seats.

To be honest, not a one was cute, or looked confortable. But how would I know…..I could not find any real reviews.

“Real-life, this is my kid, in my car and this is what I think of the seat and this is what my kid thinks of the seat.”

If I am spending upwards of $2000 to keep my  special needs child safe, at least give me more information than a boring line-by-line fact sheet. I want to know what other real moms, of real special needs kids, think of it.

I was never able to find real reviews on any of the seats, and we had to make a choice based on pictures.

That got the wheels turning….

I had been blogging since 2005 but I felt it was time to add more elements in. If I was searching, and failing, to find information on how products work for special needs families, it was also happening to other special needs families.

I did an informal poll on my personal blog, and of my Twitter and Facebook peeps. Would a review blog focusing on how products work for special needs families interest you? The response was overwhelming and immediate.


Armed with that knowledge, and on coffee wishes and valuim dreams, Mommy Rambles began.

I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time, I just try and do right by you, the loyal readers who I hope I am helping. I try to show you parts of our life, good and bad, and try to get to know you, my readers.

What this recap is leading into is….. Today I was¬†invited¬†to, and actually attended my first Bloggity Thingy.

I have severe social anxiety. Awful!

I am scared to drive. Terrified.

When the invite to Activision Games for Girls Summit arrived, my first response was ….no. I can’t. I can’t drive there. I can’t walk into a room with people I don’t know. I just can’t.

But a tiny, probably heavily drugged, part of me said….”You have to.”

If I want to keep Mommy Rambles on the right track, moving into bigger and better things, to be able to help you, my readers, find out the information you need, then I need to take the next step. I needed to step out of my comfort zone and actually start meeting people.

This was the perfect place to start. I knew the wonderful lady I was invited by, Jenny. I knew that one of my close¬†friends Alane¬†was going. I could do this…..I could……

Oh goodness…..what did I get myself into?

The day before the Activision Games for Girls Summit, I received the dreaded call from the school. Faith was sick, throwing up, and I needed to come pick her up. Right Now. And she needed to be out for at least 24 hours.

I managed to get our respite care worker scheduled to cover from 9 to 3. Which is all fine and good, but I needed to leave at 8:45 to catch the ferry…. Hubby looked at his schedule and was sure he could¬†sneak¬†home from 8:30-9

The morning of the summit arrived and my tummy was in knots. I was ready to back out. I felt a major panic attack just moments away. 8:30 – no hubby. 8:45 – no hubby. If I didn’t leave at 8:45 I ran a risk of missing the ferry! Full panic starts now. 8:50 hubby calls…stuck at work. (Deep calming breathes….I can do this. No I can’t.) 9am the respite worker arrives. I literally run out the garage door as she walks in.

Crap, crap, crap….I am late. So late. And WHAT THE HECK? My van is on Empty. My GPS says we have 15 miles to go. I’m not proud of it, but I have¬†driven 20 miles with my gas light on before so I think I can make it to the Hyatt 8, then get gas afterwards. Right? Right?

I stopped by to pick up Alane. Knowing how late we were, and how close I was to a nervous breakdown, she did her best to keep the conversation flowing. She also spent the ride to the ferry terminal talking in the “soft, soothing, everything is fine, ooooommmmmm” kind of voice usually reserved for¬†dangerous¬†people holding¬†weapons.

With 2 minutes before sail time, we got through the ticket booth, flew up to the holding line, and watched the gates close.

We missed the ferry!

We did some¬†rerouting, Google mapping and plain ol’ cursing and came to the realization that the fastest route to get us to Seattle would be to just stay right here and wait for the next ferry.

Okie-dokie. Put in a movie for kiddo, got our electronics charging for the trip, got the car warm and waited. While we were waiting, Alane briefly mentioned something about her battery having died in the ferry line. Whatever…my Scarlett had never failed me before. The conversation was good, the tweets were good, the movie was good, the next ferry arrived and unloaded right on schedule. My anxiety level was waaaaay down. I COULD do this.

Then the movie stopped, then my GPS stopped. Oh nooooooooo! 

My battery was dead. In the ferry line. Seconds from loading.

I jumped out of the van and ran to the car next to us. It happened to contain the sweetest older guy. He was so sweet that I want to adopt him and keep him as my grandpa.

He helped us jump the van in literally minutes. Less than 5 minutes later we rolled onto the ferry and were on our way. Thank you Grilled Cheesus, thank you!

I spent most of the ferry ride calming my racing heart and reassuring myself that I COULD do this. Every cell in my body wanted to turn around and just go home, but dang it….I needed to do this to help my blog grow. And make the connections I needed to make in order to keep reviewing the products that my readers are looking for.

As we approached the Seattle ferry dock, the adrenaline started. Would the van start? Would we have enough gas to get to the Hyatt 8? When I reached my van down on the car deck, who should be there? Sweet guy I want to adopt as my grandpa. He wanted to make sure the van started. (Can I please hunt him down and keep him? Does that sound too stalkerish and strange?)

I said a quick Hail Mary and…..Scarlett started right up!

Perfect! This day was turning around! We made it to Seattle, the GPS was locked on to the Hyatt 8, we were only going to be 10 minutes late!

Docked….cars rolling off into the wilds of Seattle….but…our lane wasn’t moving. Dang it people, I have things to do, fears to get over, challenges to overcome…..why are we NOT unloading?

Because the car in front of us broke down.

Of Course.

A multitude of muscular Ferry workers appeared out of nowhere and finally pushed the car far enough out of the way that those of us stuck behind could drive around and off.

Then I was doing it. I was driving in Seattle. Alane did¬†resume her calm speech and helpful directions and…..we made it! We pulled into valet parking, handed over my keys, said another prayer to Grilled Cheesus that my van would not run out of gas while the valet was parking it, took a calming breath and headed to my very first Bloggy Thingy!

My John Hancock

Clek Oobr Review and Giveaway

Have we met? Hello, I’m Allison and I’m a car seat freak.

I am a firm believer in keeping children harnessed safely in 5-point car seats as long as possible. Ok, to be totally honest, I would still have my 19 year old in a 5-point harness if I could. I love researching new car seats.

I told you I was a freak.

Me + Car Seats = Happy

But….there comes a time when a kiddo outgrows all available 5-point¬†harness¬†seats. (Except special needs seats – which I hope to review later this year)¬†The thought of moving Faith into a booster seat strikes fear into my heart. She is not the most….ummmm….easy-going kid. If she doesn’t like something, she does not¬†like it. It may be something simple (color) or complex (it feels wrong). Autism kiddos are very set in what they like and don’t like and may not always be able to tell you what is wrong. Faith is also very prone to meltdowns. If something in her world is “off”, the meltdowns begin rapidly. If a booster seat is itchy or hard or ????, she would not sit in it.

Here is where Mommy Rambles and Clek teamed up to take a Special Needs look at the Oobr.

Meet the Clek Oobr!

I’ve looked at booster seats. Lots of booster seat. Let me tell you, this? This is a Booster Seat!

Let me step back a moment. Faith is very, very resistant to change. Any change. If we turn the wrong way going to the store, she freaks. If Kraft changes the image on the box of it’s Mac & Cheese, she freaks. (Thanks for that one Kraft.) Changing her car seat, especially with the amount of time we spend in the car, is huge. I¬†approached¬†it very slowly. For a couple days, I had the Clek Oobr website pulled up when she walked by. ¬†¬† This is also where you can find all the tech blah-dee-blah about this seat. I’m not going to go over them here because this is a feel¬†review. Plus I’m not a tech person, but y’all knew that. I care about if something works or not. And the coffee. I’m all about the coffee. ūüėČ

I casually clicked on the available colors.

We talked about the colors. Wasn’t the green pretty, like grass. The blue reminded us of Daddy’s jeans. Oh look at the monkey, she was wearing sunglasses just like Faith does! The pink Paul Frank seemed to hold her¬†attention¬†the longest, so that’s the one we chose. While waiting for her seat to arrive, I made sure to talk about the “pink sunglasses monkey” seat and we looked at the picture several more times. My hope was to slowly make this car seat familiar to her so it was not new¬†when it arrived. It worked. When the big day arrived and her seat was delivered, she was very ho-hum about it. And ho-hum is GOOD!

My very first impression of the Oobr was “Oh how cute!”. Since that is what really matters, right? Just kidding. Kinda. :)

This seat feels very¬†substantial¬†yet light. How’d you do that Clek? The fabric is not plush, it has a soft canvas feel. The padding is firm with just the right amount of give. This is a very supportive seat. The back reclines slightly and the headrest raises. The armrest are soft touch plastic. There is even a cup holder!

Instillation¬†was a snap. Literally. The Clek Oobr has¬†rigid¬†latch. What the crud is that you ask?¬†Imagine¬†little arms¬†sticking¬†out from the back of this seat that grab the LATCH anchors in your car. Then you slide the seat in. Done. The Oobr is now in position. No tipping, no sliding around on the seat, no flying booster if it’s empty. Nice.

On Faith’s first ride, she climbed into the seat with very little difficulty. The head rest was very easy to adjust and did not make any “yucky” noises when raised or lowered. The arm rests, while soft, were not “icky, sitcky” feeling. The seat belt guides were very clearly marked and easy for us to insert the belt and buckle up without Faith feeling like we were smooshing her.

All of Faith’s previous seats had velvety covers. When she was settled in this seat she began scooting her tush around. She informed us that the Oobr was “slippery”. She spent quite a bit of that first ride adjusting herself over and over within the seat. The velvety fabric of the previous seats had some grab to it and I think may have helped hold her in position. The ability to adjust herself was a new feeling. At first I thought this might be a¬†liability, but later, when she switched back to a velvety seat, she complained that she couldn’t “schootch” to get comfy.

The only drawbacks I can find to using this seat are not a drawback with the seat at all, but issues with Faith. Faith has a bit of a belly. The seatbelt slides over her belly and then tends to ride a bit high on her shoulder/neck area. This in not a seat problem and is an issue we have run into with every single belt-positioning booster we have tried. She also has some hearing loss. Since the headrest does such an awesome job of wrapping around the head, I think it blocked some of her hearing. She cranes her neck forward to hear music, her DS or iPod. This puts her out of position for maximum safety. (Are you listening Clek? Perhaps some small speakers in the wings, that could plug into an external device could help encourage proper head placement? Maybe an option?)

The Clek Oobr is, without a doubt, the best booster seat I have tried. The comfort , according to Faith, is outstanding. She LOVES the Oobr.

So now I have you wanting a Clek Oobr, right? Why wouldn’t you. This is an AMAZING¬†booster seat. Guess what? One of my lucky readers will get one! Are you ready? Retail value of $274.99 – $324.99!

Mandatory Entry

Hop on over to Clek and then come back here and tell me what color  you would chose in a comment below. (One entry per person) (Excluding Saddle, which is a limited edition only available from select retailers)

Extra Entries

‚ÄúLike‚ÄĚ Mommy Rambles on¬†Facebook¬†then leave me a¬†separate¬†comment below telling me you did so. (one extra entry per person)

“Like” Clek on Facebook then leave me a¬†separate¬†comment below telling me you did so. (one extra entry per person)

‚ÄúShare‚ÄĚ this giveaway on either Facebook or Twitter up to twice a day using the buttons below. Then leave me a comment below telling me that you did. (2 entries per person possible per day)

Approximate retail value is up to $324.99.  Open to US residences only. Mommy Rambles was given a Clek Oobr to test and review by the amazingly wonderful people at Clek. Thank you!

This giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 7th, 2011. I will use to chose a winner from all comments. Winner will be posted on October 8th. Winner will then have 48 hours to contact me or a new winner will be drawn.

My John Hancock

Things I have learned this week

We took a short road trip this past week. It was about a 5 hour trip each way. Not too bad right?

We passed amazing sights.


Mt. Hood

We did amazing things


Look! I'm on a boat!

We spent time with amazing people.


The most beautiful woman in the world. My Grandma Kitty.

Sounds like an all around amazing trip right? Nope. I learned two very important things this week when it comes to road trips and autism. 1) Never leave home without the full prescription of valium. Even if you are SURE you will only need two pills. Change is not good when it comes to autism. I can not stress this enough, bring the whole dang bottle. 2) I will not attempt a road trip, or any trip for that matter, ever again until we own an iPad. With a really, really good case. Maybe even one that can bounce.

What have you learned on a road trip?

My John Hancock