Fireworks at the Ballpark

Fireworks at A's Game

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been on a singular mission for a few weeks now to discover the best Independence Day fireworks experience for my family.  My aim is, of course, ‘fun-family-happy times’ and to avoid at all cost ‘all-hell-breaking-loose’.   It’s a serious tightrope walk; a strange balance every July. 

This brings me back to “the incident” last year.  My husband and I had a nice shindig at our home.  We had a yummy barbecue, glow sticks, music and a whole lot of friends for a wonderful Fourth of July celebration.  As twilight approached, our little party began to disband.  We said goodbye to our friends as they headed off in different directions to enjoy their own fireworks experience.  We turned to each other, exhausted, shutting the door on a great evening, content with a fine party.  We sat on the couch zoning out to a sitcom or something, when the boys looked at us with extremely offended facial expressions.  Ugh, OOPS!  “I’m sorry, boys, mom and dad are too tired for fireworks”, didn’t cut it with them…not even a little.  What was worse?  They could hear the fireworks going off just a few miles down the road…but, not enough to view them from our home.  Ugh!  We totally screwed up!  The boys continue to remind us of our foible.

That is why we are definitely doing fireworks this year, no matter what!!

Independence Day and the imaginings in which it conjures is in all of our hearts.  It’s like corn on the cob, American flags, watermelon and watching your older brother shoot off Bottle Rockets in the cul-de-sac.  Can it be that Independence Day is the sister of Christmas?  Truly a special place in our hearts that no actual event can come close to fulfilling.  It’s our great imagination, impossibly satisfied.  A true fantasy; the dream of the perfect  Christmas, the perfectly imagined Fourth of July. 

So, a few days ago, my husband came up with a great idea of going to the A’s game.  Since most of the greater Contra Costa County area will not be providing a fireworks show this Fourth of July, it seemed like an ideal alternative.  We purchased tickets to the July 3 game against the Red Sox.  (Disclaimer: We are Giants Fans, people!)  We have decided that we are willing to sacrifice (this once) our Giants loyalty to enjoy fireworks at an A’s game.

With a new lease on our Fourth of July fireworks mission…to the A’s game we go.  Yet, with two special needs dudes in tow, there are a few things to contemplate.

SOUND:  We bought these great headphones for our son (the dude with sensitive hearing).  It really blocks sound and is quite comfortable to wear.  Hopefully, my son will adapt to wearing them during the fireworks display.  The headphones were bought some time ago when he was having trouble with loud sounds on his bus ride home from school.  Our little dude was very happy with plugging in to his iPod and relaxing during the ride home.  These particular headphones by Scullcandy really muffle sound whether he’s plugged in or not.

TIME:  We are going with some friends who have a child with special needs.  They had a good idea to get to the ballpark late (5th or 6th inning) so that the kids won’t be too sacked by the time the fireworks start.  In years past, this has always been the toughest challenge of the late evening festivities.  We’ve had a handful of Fourth of July busts when we set out too early, only to have to throw in the towel by sundown.  The best part of the show is the end, but if they are whining by then, it’s just not worth it.

FAMILIAR FOOD/ETC.:  My husband and I rely on and are a little too paranoid about bringing their usually snacks on outings.  By our experiences, predictable items, i.e. “the usual” food, toys, games, etc. help a ton.  My friend and I are meeting tomorrow to brainstorm some creative distrations for the boys (just in case).

In four days, our family will be heading to the Oakland Coliseum to attempt a wish fulfillment of a memorable Fourth of July experience.  Fingers crossed.

I’d love to hear about how your family celebrates the Fourth, especially if you are a Special Needs family. 🙂


BRAVE Movie Review and Suggestions for Special Needs Families

DISCLAIMER: Possible Spoiler Alerts.  I will try to be general and vague while reviewing the film Brave…actually, that shouldn’t be much of a challenge for me. 🙂 If I think I’m giving something away, I’ll write SPOILER to forewarn you.

The much anticipated computer-animated feature, Brave, is finally out in movie theaters this weekend.  Simply said, it is phenomenal.  Pixar Animation Studios has somehow improved upon it’s already amazing abilities as storytellers, animation gurus and a company who really pushes the edge within digital technology.

My 9 year-old (autistic) son and I went to see Brave just this afternoon.  He was thoroughly dead-set on NOT seeing it as it has a female lead and he is a loyal fan of Wall-E, Cars, Toy Story, etc. (stories that focus on male characters).  Lately, he’s going through a stage where he feels it isn’t cool to watch “little kid” or “girl-ish” shows.  I knew he would love it so I didn’t let that stop us.

We got to the theater early enough to get ‘the good parking spot’.  Moms and dads of special needs kids know what I mean….it isn’t necessarily the parking spot in front of the theater (closest) that is the prime spot….it’s the one away from the street (for those who bolt) with quick access to sidewalks and entry/exit points.

We didn’t spend anytime fussing with lines since I pre-bought our tickets through (highly recommend it).  I printed out our tickets once inside and we were off to the show.

Finding our seats was my son’s job.  He picked an aisle seat (good move) and he happened to pick the row that had the fewest seats (another good move).  No one sat by us which is lucky because my son has a hard time gauging how loud he is or how much movement he makes during the movie.  He sees, he feels, he moves.

There’s a lot riding on going out to the movies for a family such as ours.  My children can easily hate it or get irritated by the loudness of the movie or something may even smell bad…whatever it is….we just get up and go.  “Autobots, roll out”, as my son says.  I think this is why Pixar movies have so much meaning for our family.  We take risks…leaving it to chance…hoping this will be a good time…out of our comfort zones.  Really, we are just hoping we won’t have an ‘episode’.  With Pixar movies, our risk goes down.  There seems to be a guarantee with Pixar movies…like a safehaven for our family.  We get to exhale, relax and know that our kids are going to have a phenomenal experience…and as parents…my husband and I are grateful.

I digress.

So now that we were seated beautifully, reducing our chances for discomfort of too many people bumping into my little dude, we could recline (or try to in his case) and just partake in some awesome-ness.

The previews were all safe (at least at this cinema).  What I mean is….from experience, one of my boys can be seated in the theater only after all of the previews are completely over.  He doesn’t want to take the chance of seeing something that may trigger his anxiety.  However, the previews were quite mild, enjoyable and, frankly, rather awesome (there are some great animated films coming up).

Before the feature film, Pixar premiered the short film, La Luna.  La Luna was written and directed by Enrico Casarosa.  It’s simply wonderful.  SPOILER:  Quick description….no words, beautiful soundtrack, eye-catching computer-animation.  The short feels like it came from a children’s book or poem.  Oh, ya…and it’s short…bonus.

Okay, onto Brave.  Vaguely- and generally-speaking, Brave is a story about a girl and her relationship with her mom.  That’s almost too vague but I really don’t want to give anything away because it is sooo good.  As a mom, I found myself relating to parts of this movie.  Admittedly, I cried at this one scene where….um….you’ll see.

Possible SPOILER:  My son got a huge kick out of anything with a bare bottom, and for some reason there were more than a few.  It had all of the amusing things that my son seems to crave in his ample diet of silly kid humor….some belching, bottoms, and snot.  What more could he want?  Personally, I was taken by Merida’s hair.  How did the animators get it to move like that?…oh, and the color!  I’m recalling back to The Incredibles and how amazing it seemed that they could animate Violet’s (the daughter of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl) hair so well.  Well, they’ve taken it up a few notches, here.

Some points to consider.  As I was peeking at my son thoroughly enjoying the movie, I did notice a few things.  (1)  He didn’t always laugh at the most obvious parts when everyone else was laughing.  He’s the type of kid who enjoys seeing a favored movie…oh, 300 times.  That is how he’ll pick up on nuance or language (since he has auditory processing issues) or even pause a scene that is going too quickly for him.  When we buy this movie, which we will, of course…he will ask me questions during the scenes he doesn’t understand.  In this film, I sensed there was a handful.  (2)  The movie was a tad loud, although not like heavy artillery and explosions.  My son didn’t put his hand over his ears but he did slide down in his seat during some of the “louder” scenes.  The good news?  He didn’t leave or complain about it…which tells me he liked it so he rode through the tough parts.  (3)  My son shielded his eyes.  Most kids can get embarrassed when watching sensitive scenes.  Every kid is different, however my son gets embarrassed when a character puts it all out there, running the risk of getting ‘caught’.  There is a scene or two like this and it made him uncomfortable.  I helped him shield his eyes and before he knew it, it was over.  (4)  Length.  The movie was just long enough.  Pixar must have a team of people who have figured out the exact length a kids’ movie can be before you lose them to wiggling in their seats, attention issues, or  proclaiming, “Mom, I’m starving!”  So, that was perfect.  (5)  Depth.  Here’s another thing about Pixar movies that I love.  My son can intensely watch any of their movies, love them to pieces and miss some of the main thrusts all together….and yet, still love the movie.  I got a lot out of the deeper themes of Brave.  My son may or may not have caught onto them.  We both enjoyed ourselves.  Enough said.  (6)  Whether you are taking a boy or girl or both to see Brave, both will get a tremendous amount out of it.  There really is something for everyone….Maybe a SPOILER:  brawling, horses, archery, love, independence (or the struggle therein), great hair (mentioned earlier), a taste of Scottish heritage, family, mischievious children, etc. etc.  (7)  SPOILER:  Oh, and there are bears.  One of my boys (not the one that went with me), gets freaked out about bears.  Thought I’d mention it.  (8)  Last SPOILER:  Oh, and there is a witch.  I am more or less freaked out about witches.  🙂 This one was rather fun to watch.

Basically, this is a must-see movie for the whole family.  However, going to a movie theater is not always the best option for families with special needs kids.  Some options to consider:  (1)  Call your local theater to check whether they have special screenings for special needs kids (some are more than willing to accomodate).  With special screenings, the theater tends to keep the lights a tad brighter and eliminate all previews.  You can bet on a much more compassionate crowd in a special screening.  (2)  Wait awhile (just before it is out of the theater) to see Brave which helps with the possibility of less people in the audience.  This is a go-to favorite of my family.   (3)  And/or wait for the movie to be released to DVD.  

Whatever way is best for your family in viewing the film Brave, it is my opinion that this movie is quite special and worth seeing.

I hope this helps!



Father’s Day 2012

This morning was great for the kids.  Independently, they made cards for their dad and he absolutely loved them.  I do have to emphasize the INDEPENDENT part because it’s kind of a new thing.

Earlier today, we met my husband’s parents in Larkspur to celebrate Father’s Day at the Cheesecake Factory.  And, yes, it is a little bit of a factory.  Phew, it was busy.  But, the food was pretty good.  I had the thai lettuce wraps with room for dessert!

Father’s Day at Cheesecake Factory (Part 1)









After that, we rushed home to get the ball rolling on Father’s Day celebration part 2.  My husband quickly went to the supermarket to get all of the picnic fare (my favorite type of meal).  He’s an awesome dude because he not only shopped for everything (and picked it all out with much expertise), he also arranged everything beautifully on platters – with flair.  I commented on this hidden talent – not sure he appreciated it.

Father’s Day Picnic Fare









I have to say how lucky I am.  My husband is a great dad.  He would deny it saying he is greatly flawed – well who isn’t.  Case in point, he also blew it today and yelled at the kids…on Father’s Day.  Oh, well!  Nobodies perfect.  I do appreciate how we bail each other out from our ‘adult’ temper tantrums.

I’m also lucky because of my own dad.  He’s a great guy.  A total Italian dude, born and raised in Naples, Italy.  I think some of the best things about me, I get from my dad.  He’s the one who taught me compassion and empathy….perseverance and strength….and even when I’m most afraid, I know I can pull through for my family.  That is my dad in a nutshell.

I remember climbing up in his lap as a little girl and knowing there wasn’t a safer place in the world.  I have to admit, I miss the safe haven of a lap.  I may be too old for his lap, but I’m definitely not too old to need his approval and know that he truly believes in me.

My kids get my lap now, as long as they need it.

My dad and me – Father’s Day


I have a great husband!

Seeing me in a tough place for a couple weeks (or months), he put his thinking cap on.  After some frustrating conversations, desperate advice and much needed hand-holding…he came up with a brilliant plan.  Blog, my dear…Blog!

At first, I laughed.  When would I have time to type, let alone put coherent strings of thought together?  He was so adamant and excited that this would be a much needed catharsis for me.

I have to say, I’m convinced.  Having an avenue to speak…share…write…think…could be phenomenal for me.  Okay, with that said.  I’m not ready to purge…yet.  I just got 10 minutes to myself, though!


Walking with my 11 year-old son at dusk, aaah!  My whole family got to enjoy a hot summer night, walking the dog and enjoying the gorgeousness of our little town.  We did get attacked by gnats, though. 

My son admitted he was feeling depressed about school ending and summer beginning.  Honestly, a difficulty to wrap my brain around, because for me, summer is the epitome of beginnings and freedom.  My family moved around a lot when I was growing up.  Summer was always the time for me to get used to a new place, meet new people, or spend some quality time with my younger brother (Ha Ha)!

With some prodding, it turned out my my son was worried about going into the sixth grade this fall.  I think he even said, “I’m scared to get older!”  Okay, now we’ve hit something here.  ME TOO!  I’m turning the BIG 4-0 this October and I have to say, not at all loving the feelings, aches, diagnoses, etc. that are going with this new phase of my life. 

My son was eager to change the subject.  I quickly added, before we started to ogle the dead, decapitated lizard that we almost stepped on, how much I appreciate my life right now.  If it wasn’t for ‘getting older’, I wouldn’t have met my husband and had my awesome kids…so…

Oh boy, I should listen to my own advice!