Thursday, November 09, 2017

strawberry season

Love it that they're big enough to bring in a large harvest. Over a month of fresh berries!

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

russian lessons

We've been invited for a few years to participate in a course for future teachers where Kurt or I attend a class and describe what life is like as a parent of a special needs child. Last year, one of the students approached Kurt after class and told him that since Ava was in love with all things Russian, she may be interested in connecting with his former distinguished Russian professor from the local college.

I wasted no time setting up private lessons so that Ava could learn to speak Russian. So on occasion, we travel over to the professor's home to spend a few hours hearing about Russian culture and watching Ava bounce in her chair with excitement. Sometimes, the professor brings out her puppets to help. You'd think Ava would deem herself too cool for that. Not in the least. They're Russian puppets, after all.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

night at the museum

Zsa Zsa and her super cool Girl Scout troop traveled by train down to Boston to spend the night at the Museum of Science. The train ride was fun as she and her friend C. played car games because they could see cars nearby.

At the museum, Zsa Zsa and her friend E. made a huge tornado with their hands. She and another friend had their hands tied together with a jump rope and had to find a way to escape. She also worked on making a miniature box from foam puzzle pieces. A snack highlight was dipping dots. They watched a laser show, played on an indoor physics playground, and saw some animal exhibits.

Since Zsa Zsa sometimes experiences difficulty falling asleep, I was pretty worried about an overnight in such a stimulating environment. She didn't have too much trouble falling asleep, it turns out. But she did sleepwalk! Luckily, the leaders noticed and made sure she didn't get into any trouble.

On the way home, friends kept wanting to steal Zsa Zsa's pop rocks stick, but she was able to keep it safe and all to herself! All in all, she had an absolute blast.

Friday, October 27, 2017

middle school graduation for ava

What an accomplishment: surviving middle school. I'm dead serious. When Ava entered sixth grade, it was following the worst summer of her life or our lives as a family. Her doctor said she was experiencing a "hormonal storm." It was extraordinary and I hope never to see anything like it again.
With the help of some truly amazing teachers as well as solidly great friends who really "got" her, Ava was able to go from out of control to absolutely thriving.

A key player was her case manager at school, Megan Holden. Ava walked in to their first meeting before sixth grade wearing a Ramones t-shirt that said, "I Wanna Be Sedated." Megan is an ex-punk rocker artist mother of a girl on the spectrum. She has sleeve tattoos and her ex-father-in-law is a Polish dissident. We couldn't have dreamed up a more perfect ally for Ava. They simply love spending time together and understand each other on a level that leaves everyone else in the room feeling confused.

It goes without saying that Ava's academic performance was stellar. But like all middle schoolers, the social piece was a struggle. Bullies were pervasive. She let most of their antics roll off her back, which has impressed me to no end.

And just like in elementary school, she charmed every teacher she had with her passion for learning and fascinating insights. I can't wait to see her do the same in high school.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

honorary pages

Zsa Zsa's fourth grade class took a field trip to the Maine State House to learn about how the government works. She had such a terrific time there that she insisted that our family return over the summer. She also informed us she'd like to participate in the Honorary Page program. Fortunately for us, the government can't agree on a budget and so extended its session beyond the end of the school year.
The instructions told us to arrive an hour and a half prior to when the session actually began, so we had more than enough time to explore the State House. We especially enjoyed the balcony over the front entrance where I like to imagine the girls pondered their political futures.
We visited the House of Representatives before the session started and the Deputy Sargeant-At-Arms showed us around. He photographed us behind the Speaker of the House's desk. He showed us how the House pages watch a light-up board to see which Reps want to pass a note since it would be too difficult to watch for hands.
I signed the girls up to be pages in the Senate. Their job is to pass notes. It's a smaller chamber, so they sat just below the President and watched for the Senators to indicate that they had a note to pass. Ava had to make a few trips from the Senate over to the House to pass notes. She had to walk through a phalanx of protesters on her way.
Our State Senator, Amy Volk, was kind enough to chat with us prior to the session. She explained that she was proposing an amendment to one of the bills and gave us the details. It was fascinating to hear about it and then see what happened when she did it, as another Senator immediately opposed it and she had to scramble after that with stakeholders to determine what to do next.
We all learned so much. The President reads off the agenda so fast it's almost incomprehensible, but otherwise I'm certain nothing would be accomplished. As the session began, the girls were marched in and introduced, "Ava Dolley from Gorham Middle School and Anastasia Dolley from Great Falls Elementary in Gorham." The entire room clapped.
They even introduced Kurt and me as their chaperones and we received a round of applause. The most striking aspect of the day was simply how unbelievably friendly everyone was. We felt like celebrities with that kind of greeting, and everyone stopped to chat with us, telling the girls that they were our future and thanking us for coming.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

violin at the sea dogs

Zsa Zsa took advantage of the opportunity to play her violin with other Suzuki students at a Sea Dogs baseball game in the summer. The Sea Dogs are the farm team for the Boston Red Sox and it's a fun night out for the family to go and see a game. We decided to combine this outing with celebrating Father's Day a bit late by bringing Grandpops and Nandy with us.
The Suzuki students had to learn to play a particular arrangement of God Bless America in advance. Zsa Zsa worked hard on it for a month. She only practiced it a couple of times with the rest of the students a half hour before going on the field. I was amazed that some of these little ones were already several books ahead of her.
It's so hard to perform in front of others, let alone over 7,000 people. Zsa Zsa played very well and only had a little glitch near the end. We're so proud of her!
The rest of the evening was spent enjoying the game. A lady just down the bleacher from us passed out, and Nandy knew one of the staff who came to her aid, of course. She's one of their new neighbors.

After the game, Nandy and Grandpops headed home. We waited a half hour to see the fireworks. I wasn't really a fan of this idea. Until Kurt showed me the expression on Zsa Zsa's face. Totally worth it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

my new pants

When in Puerto Rico I found some fun pants that sometimes appear to be a long skirt. The moment Ava saw them she said, "The cultural revolutionists of Maoist China would love you."