Monthly Archives: September 2014

Positively Funny, Inc., Birmingham Improv and Comedy School

When he was in the fourth grade, Superman started talking about being a comedian. He isn’t going to remember it, but he got his inspiration from watching Josh Blue win “Last Comic Standing”. I got called to the school so many times that year, you wouldn’t believe it.
It turns out that on Show and Tell days, instead of showing and telling, Superman would get in front of the class and perform what he called “The Superman Show”. As far as I was concerned, there wasn’t a reason to admonish him, I thought it was pure brilliance. I still do.

Many people don’t realize the huge amount of tests that autistic kids go through, but one is the measure of their memory. Superman tests very low on being able to remember things. I have been thinking about this as the years have gone by, because his ability to memorize scripts would be limited. Memorizing a script for stage is different from what autie kids do that is called “Scripting”. That is many of their uncanny ability to recite movies, line for line, and even act them out.

One day about six months ago, I thought of Improv and I started researching local improv troupes. I stumbled upon PSI.

Positively Funny performs every Tuesday night at a club downtown called The Rare Martini. I called them up and asked about their classes and their shows and took him in that night to see them perform. They engage their audience and he was very interactive with the actors. He even got up on stage and did a skit with them.
He had so much fun that I knew when we left that he was going to want to take classes. He did.

The next week, the Sparks clinic called and said that they were starting a different class we had been on the waiting list for for several months, so we had to put Improv on the back burner. I actually used it as an incentive to get him to complete the class at Sparks. If you are unfamiliar with the Sparks Clinic, they are a developmental clinic located in downtown Bham, close to UAB and in that hub where all of the medical stuff is. They have autism clinics, Down Syndrome clinics, social skills programs, and even a dental clinic designed to suit all manner of disabled patients. Much of the work there is done by medical students and supervised by senior faculty. Learn more HERE

One of the things that attracted me to PFI was their work as a not-for-profit called Perform-4A-Purpose. P4AP  takes on the issues that teens often deal with in our society, bullying, suicide, and school violence. To learn more about P4AP, go here and check it out It was this that sold me on them, because instinct told me that a group that works on those issues would likely be very accepting of an autistic teen who wants to realize his dreams. I wasn’t disappointed in the way they took him right in at the show.

He started his first class tonight. I’m trying to blend in to the corner of the room and just type on my tablet and write this blog. I normally blog with headphones on and music in my ears, but not tonight.
I hope the semester stays as good as this or better because he is having fun and feels accepted and is acting more free than I’ve seen in a long time. Now, normally, he is pretty free, all things considered, but this is different. It’s like music to my heart. The instructor went on in the beginning about the fact that this class is a judgment free zone.
PFI has a show coming up next Tuesday, October 7. It is the three year anniversary of their shows at the Rare Martini. This will be a special show, a fundraiser, to gather money for a project on teen suicide called “The Color of a Ghost.” Bring dollar bills and stuff your favorite actor’s tip jar to fund this project.
This material will be distributed for free to schools. Check it out yourself here.

One last thing, PFI also does parties and special events and they have a corporate training program as well. You should check them out to see about booking them for an event.

Superman says he hopes these classes make him more funny. I think if he just has a great time, that’s all that matters to me.

Odenville, Alabama’s Louie’s Pickles and why we love them

Nestled in a small strip mall in Odenville, Alabama, you will find a place called Louie’s Pickles. Last week, we headed out that way to try out their sandwiches and so the youngest could check out the pickle shop.

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I really love this picture…

So we set out on 411 from Moody. In case you’re wondering, from the Moody exit on I-20, you want to head towards Odenville and go almost 10 miles. Almost, because it is something like 9 point something close to 10. The strip mall is small and on the left and it is almost right across the street from Fred’s. They have a big sign on the awning, and this is in the front, by the road…

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Not a great pic, I know, but I am only using my iPhone these days because my digital camera is so old the batteries only hold enough charge for one image. So, Superman snapped this pic as an afterthought from the window of my sexy mini van on our way out of the driveway.

We actually arrived at Louie’s at 1:30 PM. I had heard they had remodeled a bit to make room for their restaurant but we hadn’t been in yet. The first thing I noticed was that they grow peppers in the area in front.

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So we walked inside. The place was packed with people, it was a little noisy, and smelled divine,, like Love. I knew immediately that YKW wasn’t going to be able to manage, but the lady behind the counter, whose name I believe is Becky, remembered him from his first visit back in May-ish.  I told her that we were going to leave and come back in an hour or so. See, Louie’s is not a big place, and I counted the seating there, it seats 26. Because most of the tables were full, even though 26 isn’t a large crowd, it was large enough to appear full for the space.

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So, leave we did. When we got back an hour later, it was just us. Mid afternoon is always a good time for us.

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At Louie’s, they let you try a pickle slice to see if you like their product.
The left hand side of the place is lined up with buckets with lids that they serve from. You can buy pickles by the pint, quart, or gallon but they’re not limited to pickles only. They offer cherry peppers, green tomatoes (I forgot to try, but I love green tomato relish…), okra, and even kraut.  I’m not a big fan of kraut, but the husband is…

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They even have pickles for you hot sauce fans…

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They call these “Suicide”
Guess who didn’t try one?
Guess who did…

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Those are your basic XXX hot…

They also sell wholes.

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The boys ordered some meatball subs while they stood around, admiring the pickle tubs and chatting with the employees.  The older boy spent some time teaching his brother things about pickles. I had to pay attention to that, because sometimes he pulls facts out of his hat…

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While they talked, I did some exploring.
Louie’s used to have a large selection of artisan hot sauces that Superman loved but they appear to be limited now to this selection.

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You’re free to sample a taste with the little wooden spoons…
I tried the steak sauce and the BBQ sauce and they were both fantastic. Since I don’t like heat, I skipped the others and just took the boy’s word for it that the Electric wing sauce is the best ever.

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I do not know what this means, but I am afraid of it…

I also found these while browsing…local farm molasses and cane syrup from Todd Syrup Farm in Headland, Alabama which might be worth a day trip to go visit.

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They got their sandwiches, and since I had ordered them to go, they were wrapped in foil. We decided to eat in, anyway, so they just unwrapped them and ate. I took a bite and they were really good. That’s when I started chatting with the pretty lady in the back. She was busy rolling out meatballs and told me that not only do they make them in-house but they grind their own meat for them as well.

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In the meantime, I needed some info about carb counts of the bread so the boy could dose his insulin, but my phone was on data lockdown at the time, because I only had .12 of data before AT&T was going to charge me an extra $15. They actually googled up the carb counts for me.  Words can’t say how much I appreciated that.

mLouie’s is open M-Sat from 10 to 8 and you can check out their website at Louiespickles.com

They have a big screen inside so nobody misses the game.
The sandwiches arrive looking beautiful, the place smells great, the atmosphere is friendly and accommodating.
The whole time we were there, they stayed steadily busy.
If you like them on facebook, you can follow their limited edition items, too.
They do party trays!

If you’re going through Odenville, or just want to try them out, head out and get a sandwich and some pickles. It’s a great opportunity to support a locally owned, small business.

Louie's Pickles on Urbanspoon

How a few simple clicks can help a small non-profit AND Autism families worldwide

For those of you who haven’t figured it out already,  Kulturecity has my heart. I believe in the vision of this organization. Having lived with Autism for the lifetime of an 18 year old, I’ve seen the lack of acceptance from others first hand from the “Pardon me, but would you mind telling me what’s wrong with him?” lady in the grocery store to the old man at the DMV who needed more compassion than I was able to give to the cruel behavior of kids. I’ve also seen some of the most incredible acts of beauty and humanity, more, even, than I can list.

Coming up in November, there is going to be a gathering, Websummit, in Dublin. There is a stage called “People’s Stage” and the speakers are selected through votes, votes from people like me and you. Kulturecity wants to send a speaker, Julian Maha, to this summit to talk about Autism and how employing those with Autism can benefit the tech community and how businesses can make themselves more adaptable to people with Autism. The opportunities he will have to network and  get the word out about KC and its vision are phenomenal.  So here is what I need from you people, because I want him there. My drive for this is not a selfless act. The greater the reach of Kulturecity, the greater its impact will have on my son’s future and the futures of other young people like him. Let’s make this happen.

Go to the Web Summit People’s Stage voting page and vote for Julian Maha. It will take less than 30 seconds to get your vote in. You will have to submit your email address but can unsubscribe at any time. It really is that simple. It works just fine from a mobile device, as well.

Please don’t forget! If you live in Birmingham, the hero:Kulture party is coming up in October. Buy a ticket and go have some fun!
If you own a business, your impact can be even greater. You can buy a sponsorship and get tickets to the event along with some fine advertising. Just go here and you’ll find the info you need.

Your simple clicks can affect the lives of kids all over the world. Please take a stand with Kulturecity.

kulturecity

Quickie Microwave Cheese Crackers Low Carb, Crunchy, Salty Snack

One of the things that always comes up for low carb newbies is “What can I have that is a salty, crunchy snack?”

This low carb, keto friendly cheese cracker recipe has been around for years, since I first started low carbing back around the millennium and it will satisfy that late night craving for something crunchy.

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The first thing you will need is Parchment paper. Parchment, not waxed. NOT Waxed. I wish I had a dollar for all the newbies I’ve seen who were like “I don’t know what went wrong with my cheese crackers. They stuck to the wax paper.” Remember, wax melts at high heats.  For you more visual learners, I’ve included this:

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The second thing you need is Deluxe American Cheese. The slices that come wrapped in plastic aren’t going to give you what you want. There are very few things I shop at Wal-Mart for, but these are one of them. I’ve heard Kraft are good, the big pack at Costco is good, I’ve also got  small, local store that sells a three pound package.

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So, you tear off a piece of parchment about the size of a paper plate. I’ve  used the cheap stuff from the Dollar Tree and it’s not as good as Reynolds.  You can just put the whole slice of cheese on it (this works well as a bread sub for sandwiches, but makes crumbs while you bite it, just remember that)  if you want, it will make a big, crunchy square, or cut it into pieces, which is what I do. I make bite sized pieces so they are more like boxed cheese crackers.

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A pizza cutter works really well for this, but you can also just fold and break the cheese with your hands.

Put it in the microwave for about a minute. Microwave times vary.  Ours is a 1000 watt. Regardless, check them in 1 minute. They will be all puffy and brown.

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Sometimes, before I put them in the microwave, I sprinkle a little coarse kosher salt on them. Or bacon salt. Bacon salt is good.

Two slices are enough to fill up a small plate, with a little room for a cup of something dippy for them, or maybe Darth Vader needs to breathe.

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I took these and spread a few with some copycat boursin cheese I made using  this recipe I found on genaw. It’s a favorite recipe site for many people and has been around for years. Here’s what I used, except I used dried herbs.

HOMEMADE BOURSIN CHEESE SPREAD
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 small clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon dill
2 teaspoons chives
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

In a mini food processor, process the cream cheese, butter and garlic until blended. Add the remaining ingredients and process until well combined. Put in an airtight container and chill a couple hours to allow the flavors to develop. Serve with crackers or raw vegetables.

I also took a few and spread them with crunchy peanut butter and put a top on them. That is a trick I learned from my friend, Sam at Smokin Low Carb. They turn out like those cheap packets of PB crackers you can get from the gas station, only better and more healthy. It only takes a little bit.  No reason you couldn’t also use creamy if you prefer, or almond butter for that matter. Don’t use coconut butter, though, I tried it and it’s gross. Save that for something else.

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This really does make a great snack that will fill you up. Everyone here loves them except for the Low Carb Kid, so for me, 3 out of 4 stars is great. He’ll grow into them.

Genghis Grill in Hoover, Alabama aka Superman’s favorite restaurant

I asked my eldest child today which superhero he would be if he could pick. He picked Superman. I used to refer to him and his brother as Thing 1 and Thing 2, but a crazy person went on about it one time, I just can’t do it anymore because every time I do it now, it reminds me of that crazy person. It really only takes one person with a stick up their butt to ruin something.

Thus, he is Superman and he LOVES Genghis Grill and so does his brother. If you haven’t been there before, it is a “Mongolian” grill, though I’m not totally sure what that means. They are a menu and sit down, order restaurant. This is at times hard for Superman, because of his autism, he has to ask about each and every ingredient in a menu dish and leave things off and out. Genghis Grill is different. They have an option called “Build a Bowl” and you go down a line loaded with fresh ingredients and fill up a bowl of your choice of three sizes.

We have been to the location at the Summit before, and we really like it, but they didn’t have any seafood offerings. Mr. Incredible said he ate at the Hoover location one day with his coworkers and that they had shrimp. So, we went to Hoover, but there was no shrimp at 3:30 PM on a Saturday afternoon. I mean, come on, the Bama game was on. We like going to eat mid-afternoon. The restaurants are usually slow and low stimulation. It only took me 18 years to figure out that tip.

So first we went in, and the hostess tried to sit us at a table that was kind of sticky and had some rice on it. So, while I was standing there, wondering if they eat at sticky tables in Mongolia, our server came up and said “Don’t put them there, this other table is clean.” and we were all “Whew” or at least I was. The boys don’t care. I mean, it’s all I can do to keep them from using their shirts like they think they’re napkins.

Here she is, our server. She told me I could post this pic. Her name was Dhana.  She was actually very attentive and took good care of us. I didn’t see her stop working while we were there. She was wiping things, taking care of people, etc the whole time. I’m glad she had our table, everyone else seemed like they were unhappy to be there, even the couple across from us, who only looked up from their phones once their entire meal.

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I took a few pics but not many, because I’m new at this and felt a little self conscious. Here is a side pic of the bar.

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I didn’t get a pic of the meat bar, again, I was feeling a little self-conscious.  We’ll be back, though. Superman loves the place and they do have a reward system where you buy 9 bowls, get the tenth free. You also get a freebie on your birthday.

Fill up a bowl, you start with meat. Then there are spices, maybe 20 different kids, like curry, steakhouse blend, garlic, etc. Then you add your veggies. Honestly, being a low carber, I love this place as well. Meat and veggies! You can heap up your bowl, too.  Here is mine…

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After your veggies, there is a bar loaded with sauces. They have tiny, disposable spoons so you can sample to your liking. You get your sauce and go over to the grill, where you tell the grillmaster if you would like egg and what your choice of noodle is. They have Udon, rice, tortillas, pasta, some other things, and also shredded cabbage! I love cabbage noodles. totally low carb! You could even make yourself a vegetarian bowl there, as tofu is on the bar, or you could skip the tofu if you don’t  eat soy.

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He was cooking our food there. The boys loved watching him but I went and sat down. They bring you your food when you’re ready.

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Genghis has a bar with mixed drinks, and even some local craft beers available they also have some big screens and of course, as I said before, they had the Bama/Gators game on. You know, the one we won. See, I’m a fan of both teams, provided neither one is playing the Razorbacks, and then I’m always a Hog fan.

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All in all, we had a good experience. The boys always like it, Superman loves being able to control every single thing that goes into his dish. It’s quiet and not crowded during off peak times, the lighting is low, so it’s a good, low stim place. He is always very relaxed when we go and relaxed when we leave. And really, for us, that’s more important than fancy.

Genghis Grill on Urbanspoon

Kulturecity’s Upcoming Halloween BASH! Don’t miss it!

If you live around Birmingham, here is an event that you aren’t going to want to miss this coming Halloween season!  Kulturecity’s Junior Board is hosting a costume party fundraiser called hero:KULTURE

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Come out and come dressed as your favorite superhero! Nacho Libre!

Here is what you will need to know. First, if you aren’t familiar with Kulturecity, please, learn all you can! If you have a loved one with autism, do it for them! You will learn something valuable. If you have no loved one with autism, do it to enrich your life.
Check my tags for my personal experiences, go to their website Kulturecity.org, read their social media, follow them on facebook and twitter and just google it. In the meantime, here are the cliffs notes.

Kulturecity is a young non-profit based out of Vestavia Hills, Alabama. It is a little over one year old. They take the funds they raise and use them to reach directly out to families affected by autism and provide them with the necessary tools and therapies their children need for success. These tools and services are often expensive and not paid for through insurance. Did you know that a non-verbal autistic child can use iPad apps to be able to communicate? One of the goals of this organization is to put iPads in the hands of children with autism. My son is (very) verbal. They gave him one. He uses it to (take selfies…j/k) keep track of his appointments and necessary daily tasks. He has checklists on it for things he needs to remember but can’t, contact info for people, lists of meds, and so on. He has a form on it for special requests for jewelry he makes.

Another thing they do is place weighted therapy blankets in the hands of kids who need them. A therapy blanket is heavy and provides sensory stimulation that our kids need while they sleep. They are expensive. I made my son’s. The supplies alone cost $125. These blankets are very often out of reach for these kids.

Another thing they do, and this is not the last nor the least thing, but do a little research and don’t just take my word for it…they are brainstorming ideas to help get autism families out into the community not just for the sake of the families and the kids, but for the sake of the communities as well. Our kids have so much to give! We often keep our distance because of a lack of acceptance from others. There are families living with autism who have even been asked to find new churches and can’t even go to their chosen house of worship because other people were unable to accept having their child as a member.

Now, here is what you need to know about this event. It is on Friday, October 17 at Rosewood Hall at SoHo Square
2850 19th St South, Homewood, Alabama 35244

Come dressed as a superhero or heroine and come ready to party!
Tickets are $25 available in advance HERE and $30 at the door.  Dinner will be provided, there will be a cash bar available.  Music will be provided by Will and Sarah Mason, DJ Syndicate, celebrity DJ Full Service Party, and some surprise guests.  I LOVE surprise guests! The party will also include a best costume contest along with amazing prizes. There will be a cash bar and they will be serving several mixed drinks including a ZOMBIE-rita. I’ll have 13.

There will also be a raffle and to enter the costume contest, bring a new toy to donate as your contest admission.

If you decide to go through Amazon to buy your costume and supplies, you can further support KC by going through their Amazon Smiles link.  Amazon will donate a portion of all purchases bought through this link to Kulturecity. In fact, just use their link for your Amazon shopping for the upcoming holidays and, well, forever.
Amazon Smiles

If you own a business, there is even more you can do for this wonderful 501c3 Non-profit. You can give a fully tax-deductible sponsorship for this event. We need sponsors and there are perks that come with it.  By perks, I mean some great advertising, free tickets and free drinks!
There are three tiers of sponsorship $1000, $500, and $250. Each tier comes with its own set of perks, so please see what you will get for your sponsorship.

SPONSORSHIP LEVELS

SUPERMAN ($1000)
•  Company name and logo recognition featured as SUPERMAN Sponsor on main HD screen.
• Company recognized by Host at event.
• Company recognized on all Kulturecity website and other social media.
•  Sponsor gift.
• 12 tickets to event
.• 12 drink bands

WONDER WOMAN ($500)
• Company name and logo recognition featured as WONDER WOMAN Sponsor on 3 tables.
• Sponsorship recognized on KultureCity website and other social media
• 6 tickets to event
• 6 drink bands

BATMAN ($250)
• Company name and logo recognition featured as BATMAN Sponsor on 1 table.
• Sponsorship recognized on KultureCity website and other social media.
• 2 tickets to event.
• 2 drink bands.

We would really appreciate your support! By committing a sponsorship, you will make a huge impact on a local, small non-profit and an even greater impact on the lives of kids and families living with autism every day, Thanks.

 

Frankendrums vs … Finger Drums?

The only thing we found yesterday…

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We’ve been a little low on luck lately with our search for drums, and that’s ok. The boy took away from the Iron Giant Percussion concert that anything can be a drum, even coffee cans and clay plant pots and, well, cacti. Though, we tend to argue over whether or not the cacti were drums or harps. I vote for harps.

I did pick up a cheap bass drum pedal one day for $1.50. I’m glad to have a smartphone, I can google things up and make sure they are not missing pieces, etc.

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We also found these the other day, but I decided they wanted too much for them. The price tag was $70. There was a separate snare drum with no stand, and while we could have used the bass and the hardware, the cost of replacing the stand for the snare along with the remaining need for hi-hats and cymbals, I could just buy him a decent beginner set off craigslist and save myself the thrill of the hunt. These did sell, so maybe I was wrong, but I’m not that worried about it. It will come in time. Meanwhile, the not-so-little little one has an electronic practice pad, a score of buckets outside, and many things to make noise with.

Mr. Wang’s Restaurant in Homewood, Alabama

Since posting this, we have been back to this place not once, but twice. See our update here.

My husband occasionally eats lunch in Homewood at a place called Mr. Wang’s.  He really loves the place. They have a lunch and dinner buffet and also takeout available. I went with him once, and it was very busy.  He says it is not uncommon for them to have a packed house at lunch.

We never took the boys because they don’t have pizza on the buffet but the eldest has been very interested in trying new things lately. Saturday afternoon, I felt like having some Chinese and I do like a buffet. I like trying bits of lots of things and, since I eat low-carb, a buffet is a pretty fair option for finding acceptable items. I pulled up the Mr. Wangs website at http://mrwangsbuffet.com/ and let him browse for a while.

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When he saw their menu, he saw some old favorites on it, like General Tso’s chicken and decided that he would order off the menu if he didn’t care for the buffet offerings. The last few years have been kind of rough for him, trying to find a place to go out to. He loves restaurants but has become intolerant of crowds. This has ruled out most buffets. He used to love buffets enough to tolerate the crowds, but autism tends to evolve in some kids. We’ve just learned to be more adaptable, ourselves. He LOVES restaurants that have websites. He likes to look beforehand and get an idea about what he might want to eat there.

So we decided to go to Mr. Wangs, which is Mr. Incredible’s favorite Chinese buffet.

We picked a seat and ordered our drinks and went up to get our food. The drinks were at the table when we got back. I always get hot tea, unless I forget my splenda drops.  Here’s my plate:

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In all the Chinese places I’ve been to, they have never brought me ice water to go with my tea. They’ve also never used a pretty pot. It’s always been a stainless steel pot. In fact, the last time I got tea, the place we were at just brought me a cup with hot water and a tea bag in it. I wish I was kidding. Instead, the server at Mr. Wangs brought me this.

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They use Jasmine tea. It’s like drinking flowers. I love it so much. The boys each took a sip, though, and they were like “Gross. It’s like drinking flowers.” I, on the other hand, will order it forever.  The eldest said “I guess girls must LIKE drinking flowers…”

Everyone was eating and the boys were both trying new things (FANTASTIC!) and the eldest even said the curry chicken was one of the best things he has ever eaten. The hubs filled up his plate with his favorites, he’s not big on trying new things. I can’t remember a time when we went somewhere that I didn’t try something new. I always have little bits of this and that. The curry chicken was really good, the crab angels (I can’t believe they don’t call them Wangoons…) were good, the crispy green beans a tiny bit spicy, everything I took a bite of was good. The egg drop soup was some of the best I’ve had. I like that it was more than just eggs and broth. I always add a little soy sauce and usually dip my food in it.

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One thing I liked about their buffet was that all of the hot dishes were clearly labeled and they even have a good selection of MSG free items, also clearly labeled.  They also have some vegan selections. The older boy specifically mentioned that he liked the fact that the server didn’t lurk about, staring at us while we ate. She kept a watchful eye on our drinks, and kept the plates cleared as well.

Mr. Wangs has a bar, you can order beer, wine and mixed drinks. Those drinks are not included with the buffet pricing, of course.

For their dessert selections, they have pudding and jello and fruit and ice cream and fried donuts but I didn’t eat dessert, so I didn’t look as closely as I should have.  For years, the oldest has gone up and made his brother an ice cream, which is sometimes weird, sometimes crazy. We have seen them with brownies, donuts, cookies, gummy bears, etc mixed in. This time, he used a fried cinnamon donut, twist ice cream, and then he put sugar sprinkles on top. I’m just glad I don’t feed them that way at home.

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We had a very good experience there. The time of day we picked wasn’t very busy, and there wasn’t any noise and it wasn’t crowded. Everyone dubbed it their “New favorite place” except for the husband, it was already his.

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We will definitely go back. I just hope they always bring my tea in a pretty pot.

Mr Wang's on Urbanspoon

Kulturecity, the Birmingham Barons, and WIAT 42

About 2 weeks ago, my friend, Brenda sent me a message on facebook that we were invited to an event at the Birmingham Barons game. The event was hosted by Kulturecity and it was an iPad giveaway where 14 kids with autism were set to receive an iPad. They had made an agreement with KC that for every game they won this year, a kid would get an iPad. I was shocked and surprised. My son is 18, and something I’ve learned in our journey is that when they reach a certain age, sometimes doors start closing.  I’m still unsure why that is, except maybe because there is so much focus on early intervention that we forget that these kids who are grown and have had sometimes a lifetime of therapy services and hours upon hours of work and effort put into them by doctors, counselors, teachers, therapists, their parents and siblings and scores of loved ones and last but not least, themselves, they still need people to help them keep their foundation strong. Autistic kids grow up to become autistic adults, and sometimes even though they are working and getting out in the community, they still need quite a bit of support even though they often age out of being able to get that.

So! I’ll get off my soapbox. I was surprised that the boy got picked to receive an iPad. I got prettied up and got him moving and getting ready to go. There were quite a bit of dramatics over the fact that he was having a non-scheduled Sunday event, though I had been telling him for a week to be prepared for it.  To take the sting out of it, I went into the hidden Christmas gifts and picked out a new shirt for him to wear, and that worked quite well. He got ready and we left.

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I had never been to a pro baseball game, so for me, this was just as much fun as anything. We drove downtown and found a parking spot pretty easily, right next to this post.

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The boy has always taken great delight in off-color humor, which really got him in a lot of trouble in elementary school. Leave it to me, though, to park us right next to the post that said “SO DRUNK” with a backwards N…he immediately burst into laughter. And so it began.

We walked a few blocks down to Regions Field and found the gate where our names were on a list, got our tickets, and went inside. Wow! It was so big. I took a pano pic with my phone.

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Because we arrived early, we got to get two free T-shirts, which was cool. We found a concession stand that sold Coke Zero, got him a drink and found a place to sit, looking at the ballpark, listening to the announcer, just getting used to being there. He has never transitioned well, so I try to always give him a little extra time to get settled. Then, I got a message from Brenda, saying it was time to meet up with our group and get ready to do the presentation. We headed over.

Within just a few minutes, he was telling me he was feeling overwhelmed from the crowd. I kept him distracted. I introduced him to everyone I could, introduced him to Julian, talked about getting another drink, how we would go out on the field soon, etc. And we did. A sweet man came over and took us as a group to the elevator. Everyone got on. Oh man, does he hate a crowded elevator. Talk about stretching! I stretched him that day. We got on the elevator with 15 people and he was giving me the stink eye the whole time while I pretended not to notice. Then, we went out onto the baseball field, in front of the crowd. Insta-hot = insta-issues. The slightest bit of sweat and he becomes overwhelmed. I am thankful that he is verbal and able to tell me when he needs help.

“Mama? Can we go? Mama, can we go? Can we go? Can we go? I’m hot. I’m hot, Mama. I can’t do this.”

“Just be patient, Son.”

“Can we go? I’m hot.”

“I’ll buy you a drink and we will go to Michael’s.”

“I’m hot, Mama. I don’t want an iPad. I just want to be in the air again.”

“I’ll let you run the air on high all the way home.”

Keep him distracted.

The announcer was going on about autism on the loudspeaker, but I didn’t hear any of it. The boy was handed his iPad. The whole thing seemed pretty chaotic, but maybe the chaos was just what was happening in our bubble. He had sweat rolling down his face and was sopping it up with the T-shirt he got for being early. I got him to walk with me to say hi and thank you to Julian. In this pic, he was completely overwhelmed but you can’t tell by looking at him. It has taken years of therapy to get to that point with his coping skills. Words cannot begin to convey how proud I am of this young man.

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I grabbed that pic and we beat it for the exit. Right then, we were approached by a young woman with WIAT, TV 42 in Birmingham who was lugging around what looked like a thousand pounds of camera equipment. She wanted to do a short interview for the news. I told her it would be fine, but we needed a cool place to sit if she was going to get anything out of him. As we waited for the elevator to come for us, we had a lot of the same conversation as before.

“I’m hot, Mama. I don’t want to be on the news.”

“You will be glad you did it after you cool off,  Son.”

“I’m hot, Mama. News is for old people.”

“Five bucks and you can pick dinner.”

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Right then, a player for the other team came up and did some stretches beside us where he was swinging his legs like a pendulum and I looked at the boy and his lips were twitching where he was trying not to laugh about it. The elevator opened and the sweet man who was helping us took us up to the second floor, where it is enclosed and there are couches and AC.  The seats up there are probably expensive. He became better very quickly, she mic’ed us up and got her equipment set up. Here she is. Don’t laugh. I’m not a professional, well, anything, but certainly not a photographer. IDK what went wrong with this pic. OK, you can laugh. I did.

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The man who helped us started to walk off and he turned around and came back and said “You know what? When you’re done, just have a seat and enjoy the game from up here.”

What a blessing! We would have had to leave otherwise. He did so well, I couldn’t make him go back into that heat.

We did our interview. They were very interested in his ear covers. He uses those to filter noise when we are in a high stimulation place, the grocery store, a waiting room full of kids, some restaurants, baseball games, etc.  They can be bought online or in gun shops or any store that sells sporting goods, even Wal-Mart.  By the time we were done, he had decided to give watching the game in the air  a chance (which I knew would happen if he would just hang in there, and he did)  and we said our goodbyes. We had a seat by the windows and he went and ordered a drink. The guys at the snack bar told him how much they liked his shirt and wanted to know where he got it. I made sure he knew to leave a tip in the tip jar.

The view of the field from the fancy seats is fantastic!

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At one point, the ball went crazy and flew up and hit the window right in front of us. According to the boy, watching sports in real life is way better than watching sports on TV, and maybe he is a Barons fan.
We sat and had our drinks and watched the game and started setting up the iPad using the park’s free WIFI. I sent texts to tell all of our friends and his doctors that we were going to be on the news, and to make sure they tuned in. The husband recorded it from home. My little one said it was awesome.

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Something I learned about the Birmingham Barons is that they are starting to have what they are calling “Autism Friendly” games at Regions Field. These are games with special seats (I’m not sure what that means),  reduced noise,  low stimulation and lower lighting. If you have an autistic child who may enjoy a game, that may be the right game for you to look into attending.

All in all, it was a great day. We got to attend the game, spend the day together, he received an iPad, we got to be on the news (and it wasn’t even a mugshot!) which, I knew he would love and he did, and maybe we can make some new friends.

Please don’t forget, Kulturecity is small and makes a huge impact. They can always use donations to help kids just like mine. Check them out at www.kulturecity.org

The iPad is loaded with apps he likes, like calculator, the calendar (so I never forget to tell him there’s a doctor’s appointment…his words, not mine), he’s using it really a lot. There’s some Angry Birds RPG, too.

And all it cost me was
5 bucks
He got to pick dinner
A trip to the craft store
Ran the AC on high all the way home
$3 drink at the snack bar

But what we really took away from it was priceless.

Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center at UAB

This past Sunday, my youngest and I attended a concert at the UAB Department of Music’s Alys Stephens Center.  The concert was free and was being performed by Iron Giant Percussion,  an award-winning band based out of Bham AND the band that has our Drum Wizard as a member.

The little one was very excited, and kept going on about how great everything is and how much he loves life and how this was his first concert and on and on. I didn’t even have to force him to comb his hair for the event. We should go to concerts every day!

When we arrived, it was early, as we like to be early to the events so we can explore, and we picked our seats. The theater is very nice, and honestly, I was afraid we should have dressed up when we saw the ushers handing out programs. Honestly, I’ve never been to a concert that didn’t have a mosh pit or where I didn’t end up sweaty by the end of the night. When we got inside, though, people were dressed as casually as we were so it wasn’t a problem.

Here was the view from our seats:

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After we were seated (we had to change seats multiple times till we found ones where the center tom in front blocked one particular light at the back of the stage. Then the youngest saw the balcony, so up we went.

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Look how long his hair is getting. He wants to be like his dad. I can think of worse.

But the thing is, he didn’t love it from up there, either. The lights were even brighter, so back down we went and took our original seats, behind some friends we know from Scrollworks. We chatted for a bit, then the show started. I only took this one pic of the show plus one other at the end, and that’s when I realized that the noise my phone makes when I take a pic seemed horribly LOUD when the click went off during a lull in music.

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So there is the band. He was excited to get to see the Drum Wiz in action, but he was pretty squirmy in his seat, regardless.

It was a great show! All except for that one song… We didn’t know cacti could be used as instruments before, but we know now! It was fun and they are really a talented group. It’s no wonder they win awards with their work.

Seriously,  if you’re planning an event in Birmingham, Iron Giant Percussion would be worth giving a call.

Check out their website at http://www.irongiantpercussion.com/

Throughout the show, while I listened to the music, I found myself focused on the right hand wall beside the stage. The lights would cast the drummers’ shadows across the wall and I’ve always loved shadows.

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One day, I’ll have a better camera and I’ll be able to get some really good close ups.

So, the schedule at the Alys Stephens Center may be worth really looking into if you live around Bham. The program they handed us has a lot of “Faculty recitals” that are free but the website has a lot of concerts with affordable ticket prices.

http://alysstephens.org/

The concert was about 1.5 hours and then we left, heading home to be greeted by a most beautiful moon. It was almost ten, so the boy felt like he had had a late night, concert going experience.