A Family Visit in September

Dear Students,

My sister Kathy came to visit me from Pennsylvania this week. My boys loved to see Uncle Mickey, Aunt Kathy, KK and baby Abby.

KK is 2, she popped in and out of our tiny doggy door like a puppy!

I played tour guide and drove them around the Valley.

We took the Apache Trail to the Tortilla Flat.

Phoenix is very different from Harrisburg, PA.

Max, KK and Brady at the Tortilla Flat. We liked the money on the wall, the saddle seats and the snakeskins–don’t forget the funny bathrooms!

I came back on Wednesday and shelved books in the library and hung up posters for the Book Fair. Are you excited for the book fair? It is next week!!

Book Fair next week in the gymcafetorium! We use the Gilbert family business A plus books to help us run our book fair. Shop local and support your library!

Then I went back to playing tour guide.

On Monday we visited the Lost Dutchman State Park and hiked the Treasure Loop Trail. We did not go the whole loop. We walked to the Green Rock and then walked back. KK and Max were good hikers!

Do you like to hike? I took my family to my favorite places near our house. Where are your favorite places to visit with your family?

It is still very hot here for a hike in the desert. We left the house early in the morning, brought plenty of water and wore comfortable shoes. Stopping for snacks along the way helped too!

Baby Abby is two months old, so she was old enough to go on a hike too.

The parking lot for Papago park is hidden inside the zoo parking lot, Turn into the zoo and then take a quick left to Papago park. We drove around a bit before I found the right lot.

We took her to Papago Park to Hole in the Rock for a super easy hike. It is only 1/8 of a mile long with a dramatic pay off. Perfect for that newborn attention span.

Interior of Hole in the Rock. Fun to climb around the inside!

At the top of KK’s wish list was Organ Stop Pizza and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

The ice cream stand and the grocery store were the biggest hits with KK. What do you like to do best at the Children’s Museum?

My mom placed an order for olive oil, so we had lunch at the Queen Creek Olive Mill. Max and KK played tag in the olive grove. We saw pomegranates, a bird’s nest and lots of olives!

Can you tell me what kind of bird made this nest?

Do you like pomegranates? The story of Persephone is a good one to read if you like the fruit.

KK found a pomegranate on the tree

After running around the olive grove and eating prickly pear gelato, KK fell asleep in the car. If we took her out of the car she would wake up.

Everyone fell asleep. So I drove them to Casa Grande National Monument because I am good like that.

Are Uncle Mickey’s eyes rolling up to the top of his head?

Casa Grande is a great place to play hide and seek. Don’t forget to look for the two owls that live in the canopy over the Great House. We noticed on this visit that the visitor’s center is enlarged and has a new theater. Casa Grande is free on 9/29/12 for Public Lands Day.

I know it looks like I took my family out in the sun all week. That is exactly what I did. They are pretty tired!

After our hikes, we went swimming and made s’mores on the patio.

Here are 50 more s’mores recipes. What kind will you try?

Halloween is just around the corner! This is my pick from the 50.

My favorite part of the visit was snuggling up with new baby Abby. She just ate, slept and smiled.

The next time we see Abby, she will be 11 months old and on her way to walking. It is hard to believe!

I hope you enjoyed the pictures!!

Mrs. Kenney

Asperger’s 101: The importance of role models

Asperger’s 101 is a series to dispel misconceptions about Asperger’s and Autism in general. I write this post with the help of my 7 year old son, Brady. I could not express these opinions without his input or approval. This is a record of our experience. 

Part of an ordinary childhood experience is wanting to fit in. It is hard to fit in when you are 7 and you have Asperger’s. Hard but not impossible.

Brady stopped playing Minecraft and embraced science more after he watched Jake’s videos. Jake decorated his bedroom to look like a science lab, so Brady asked for the same thing. Maybe that will be another post. Here he is taking baby Abby to “outer space” during her visit.

We looked online until we found other boys that love science and math, and also happen to be autistic.

Jake Barnett loves Astronomy and talks openly about his autism. Jake accepts himself and is happy. Jake is important to my son.

Jake Barnett is in his early teens. Jake is one of the first kids that Brady found that he can relate to — here is a boy that openly says “I”m autistic” and “I’m happy”.

Dr. Mad Science is another role model for Brady. His name is Jordan. He is a normal kid, surrounded by family and friends and treated with acceptance. He is autistic and he is happy.

Joey Hudy lives in Phoenix, AZ. He found a community of peers at Maker Faire and the Heat Sync Labs. He is an Aspie. He is paving the way for Brady, showing him you can be a kid and have fun!

These boys inspired Brady to lead science projects for his class at school. So far he has demonstrated two of Dr. Mad Science experiments (Lava Lamp and Milk Fireworks) for his 2nd grade class (another great science resource for us is Steve Spangler). The experiences helped Brady connect with the kids in his class.

Because of Joey, Jordan and Jake, Brady is open to tackling clubs, projects and group events. Here he is playing with a simple electronics kit. His frustration has abated and his identity as a normal kid with intense interests is emerging. Yes, he’s still autistic and still has to battle meltdowns and social challenges but the unnecessary burdens of alienation and loneliness are erased.

But most importantly, these boys keep Brady from feeling alone. He can relate to them and since he found out about them, he is a happier kid. This is not something I can do for him, this is something his community does for him. Thank you to all autistic kiddos who make and share videos online, I am so grateful to you.

Mom note: My awareness of the importance of autistic role models for children with autism is courtesy of Karla of Karla’s ASD page. I read Karla’s page every day. She is an immensely valuable resource. If you have time to read/follow her on Facebook or online, I think you will enjoy her too.

My birthday weekend and how I spent it

I celebrated my birthday on Saturday.

Hidden in the cooler was a birthday cake and candles.

For my birthday I wanted to see a brilliant night sky.

This blog post inspired me to make my birthday wish. I saw shooting stars too.

Pine trees.

We camped at a campsite with the lyrical name FR9350. The web says this camp site is on the rim, but actually it was a 1/4 mile walk. Our camp hosts were Bunny and Mike.

A waterfall.

Chips and salsa and bottomless glasses of iced tea.

We stopped at El Mexicano in Payson on Saturday for lunch and enjoyed lunch on Sunday on the way home

Saturday morning, we drove 2 hours north to a new campsite along the Mogollon Rim. We picked the site from my trusty book. This was my 3rd trip to the rim. We’ve stayed Black Canyon Rim, Crook Campground, Woods Canyon Lake Group site and this time FR 9350. For me, this was the best one simply because we could walk in ten minutes from the rear of our tent through woods to the rim without crossing any road or campsite.

The Best In Tent Camping: Arizona

We walked for an hour along the Rim Lake Vista Trail. The trail was level and easy to walk. We were gloriously close to the rim (20 yards?) so near enough to enjoy the view and far enough that I did not worry about losing Max.

Vista Point

The dramatic rise of the Mogollon Rim produces a sudden uplift to approaching storms resulting in a high incidence of lightning strikes during the summer, creating an active fire season from May to July.

Mogollon Rim is the site of frequent lightning strikes. If you plan to visit in the summer, be cautious. We stopped for a long while watching common blackhawks, easily 13 or 14 circling on the draft created by the rim. If you happen to see them, listen for them to scold you when you hike, because they do and they will!

Assortment of shots, showing the divebombing behavior (top row, center & right), the deep wingbeats (bottom row, left & center), & the typical Black Vulture-like soaring flight: They are losing their habitat, the Mogollon Rim is one of the few they have left.

My favorite gift is a new place to see, so we drove down the steep road to the park (14% grade, make sure your brakes work!)

We used the brakes all the way down, it was steep, windy and did I mention steep?

And discovered a jewel of a park, green grass, shady trees, soaring rock walls all around. The boys were too tired to take on a challenge, so we did an easy 10 minute hike to a waterfall.

and another short walk to the observation deck of the natural bridge. It is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point. There are three hiking trails, a picnic area, and a group use area. My pictures of the park are not very good. This page gives a good idea of what you can expect to find if you visit the park. Park admission was $5.00 per adult and $2.00 for children 7 and up.

My pictures are terrible, but your take away from this shot is that if you walk to observation point 3 and 4, you can see 1) stand on the natural bridge and 2) see the bridge and enjoy the view. It is tremendous and worth the price of admission. It would be easy to spend a nice day here hiking and picnicking.

We plan to come back when the boys are not worn out and hike the Gowan trail to the Natural Bridge. Give yourself an hour, 2 liters of water and proper shoes.

My pictures are terrible, so please multiply this time 1000. If you look to the right from this vantage point and crane your neck a bit you can see into the chasm below the bridge. It is deep and has a score of happy hikers scrambling through the chasm below the bridge, behind a curtain of a waterfall. Lovely.

Thanks for enjoying my birthday weekend with me. I hope it inspires you to get out and enjoy a beautiful place. Where would you like to go for your birthday, if you could have any kind of day you like?

Something you don’t see everyday: Contrails in the early A.M.

Dear Students,

Last week, my friend Katie noticed something in the early morning sky.

Katie’s picture on her way into work this morning

In Scottsdale, Ariz., observer Ryan Eiger was walking his dogs before sunrise and snapped a photo of the Juno missile contrail shining with the moon and Venus.

“I looked up quickly noticing the contrail in the east. I ran and got my iPhone and it happened to be just north of both the moon and Venus,” Eiger said in an email. “The contrail was amazing. It sort of resembled a cloud except for the very colorful tail it had.”

Linda & Dr. Dick Buscher in Anthem took this photo, which shows a pretty rainbow in the smoke:

Linda & Dr. Dick Buscher caught the contrail from a missile launch from Fort Wingate, NM, at their location in Anthem, AZ, at the north edge of Phoenix, 5:41 am on September 13, 2012.

The unique cloud was created by the launch of an Army Juno missile early Thursday from Fort Wingate in New Mexico, which soared high into the atmosphere on its way to the White Sands Missile Range to be intercepted by a Patriot missile. The unarmed Juno rocket flew so high that its long contrail reflected sunlight from the yet-to-rise sun, sparking a dazzling night sky light show.

Here is a photo of a Juno target missile like that fired from Fort Wingate near Gallup, N.M., at 6:30 this morning. (photo from White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs Facebook page)

You can read more about the missile launch here.

Sky Harbor Mass Exodus

This is a photo of the South runways traffic at Sky Harbor on 2/24/12, between 8:00 and 9:09 A.M. I set the camera on a tripod, aimed at the tower, set the lens at 70 mm, focused once and then turned off the AF and stabilization. When a plane took off, I snapped a few shots of it. Then in the computer, I took a single shot of each airplane, masked the airplanes, and copied them all into one shot, with the planes in the exact position, relative to the tower as in each original photo.

One of my favorite things about living out here is the enormous sky. What did you see today? Tell me about it!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane it’s,
Mrs. Kenney

Gilbert 9/11 Memorial

After school yesterday, the boys and I took a short drive to 50 E Civic Center Drive to visit the 9/11 Memorial.

Max and Brady were able to put their hands on the beam. The twisted metal made Patriot Day a little more real to them.

Maria Behr went to my high school, her mother Hermana Behr was my Spanish teacher. She is greatly loved and greatly missed. We said a prayer for her.

The Memorial includes panels with the names of people, ordinary and brave who had lives to live and things to do.

Bishop McDevitt High School observes a moment of silent prayer on Patriot Day. The flagpole was donated by Maria Behr’s family.

I don’t like to tell my children about 9/11. But I told them all the same.

Photo by Patrick Witty “I took this photograph exactly 11 years ago this morning, at 9:58 am, just as the South Tower of the World Trade Center began to collapse. I still do not know the names of the people in the picture, but would love to. Please share this picture in the hopes they contact me.”

I also told them what Fred Rogers said on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

The world is full of good people, just like you and me.

Patriot Day 2012

Dear Students,

Tuesday is Patriot Day. This day is observed in memory of the people who lost their lives on September 11th 2001 in Washington, DC, New York City and Pennsylvania.


This week I will read the book FIREBOAT: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey, a true story.

I visited New York City on September 13, 2001 with my friends Cris and Alvin. To write this post, I went into my closet and dug my old pictures out of a shoebox.

I took this picture with my camera near the Holland Tunnel. I was used to seeing the towers in this picture. They should be in the middle. Columns of smoke replaced the towers. The smoke curled into the sky for days.

It is hard to put Patriot Day into words. It is a day for togetherness, for service and remembering everyday people that lost their lives on a brilliant, beautiful September morning.

ambulances were parked by the dozen along the harbor. Dump trucks, police cars, and more dump trucks drove in and out of ground zero. There were police everywhere.

New York is called the city that never sleeps. There were people everywhere. Jogging. Walking their dog. Living their life. And there were people like me, who just wanted to be there.

I saw many people saying “Thank you” to police, fire fighters and EMTs.

This is the beginning of Patriot Day right here.

Everywhere you looked in Manhattan you saw folks holding a flag

On Patriot Day, we put out our flag, we remember those that lost their lives on 9/11.

People tied ribbons to the fence. It stretched an enormous city block, little white ribbons fluttering, people adding torn strips to it the whole day and night. It says “I am still here.”

My pictures are a poor way of showing how enormous the sense of community is in New York City.

This is a quiet way of showing togetherness.

The events of 9/11 only brought all of us closer together.

Patriot Day is part of our American story. For a list of events in the Phoenix area, follow this link.

America is much more than a geographical fact.  It is a political and moral fact – the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality.  ~Adlai Stevenson

Some people spend Patriot Day as a day of service. Some people go to community events. I will take my boys to Gilbert to see our own 9/11 memorial.

Last year, I went with my boys to the dedication of the 9/11 memorial. Chandler is dedicating a similar memorial this year.

Mrs. Kenney

P.S. More information on the Chandler dedication here:  Chandler will dedicate a steel beam from the ruins of the World Trade Center during a memorial service on Sept. 11 to honor the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The city is inviting the public to the 30-minute event that will include Mayor Jay Tibshraeny, Fire Chief Jeff Clark and Police Chief Sherry Kiyler.

The event will include the unveiling of a memorial that includes a 417-pound section of I-beam that is more than five feet long, and that had been on display for several months inside the Fire Department headquarters. The memorial was designed with feedback from fire personnel and incorporates elements that represent the attacks on the Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania field where Flight 93 crashed.

Click here to find out more! The 30-minute memorial begins at 8:40 a.m. at the Fire Department headquarters, 151 E. Boston St.

For more information, (480) 782-2120 or visit www.chandleraz.gov/fire.

You might also like “14 Cows for America” in our library, to learn the true story about the gift from the Masai to the American people.

Mark your calendar, Constitution Week kicks off 9/22 in Gilbert, AZ

Dear Students,

You are invited to come to the Constitution Week kick off in downtown Gilbert. Our Constitution Week celebration is the largest in the country. If you are an artist, enter the art contest for a prize.

Mark your calendar: Come and celebrate the US Constitution this year at Civic Plaza / Town Square in Gilbert, AZ  on Saturday, September 22, 2012, from 6pm-9pm.

If you are interested in the presidential election this year, you will love the event. Did you watch  Mitt Romney accept the Republican nomination for the Presidency at the  Republican National Convention in Tampa?

Mitt and Ann Romney with family (link to article about Mr. Romney in Parade Magazine)

Mitt Romney was competing with Ron Paul. Ron Paul failed to secure the Republican nomination, but he represents the voice of a 3rd party

While their presidential candidates stand little chance of being elected, members of America’s third parties have historically promoted concepts and policies that have been incorporated as important parts of our social and political lives. A voice like Ron Paul’s is valuable.

This week, the Democrats take their turn with the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. President Barack Obama is running for re-election.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Malia and Sasha

I am proud of our country and our peaceful transition of power. One of my favorite books to read aloud is We the Kids, the preamble to the constitution.

The kids wrote to Sgt O’Brien during his deployment. Welcome Home Sgt. O’Brien!

Our friend Sergeant O’Brien visited the school last year when he returned from Afghanistan. It was our best gift to have him come back to America safely. He read We the Kids to the kiddos in the library.

Come to the library and read, We the Kids by David Catrow

I can always learn more about our Constitution. Last Sunday, I attended a “fireside” at my local LDS church. I went with my neighbor.

Franklin, Jefferson, Washington

The topic was “The Constitution”, our speaker was Shane Krauser. He opened his talk with a simple story about a chair. He quoted Benjamin Franklin saying, “I have often looked at that (sun) behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I… know that it is a rising…sun.”

The Rising Sun Chair, George Washington used this chair for nearly three months of the Federal Convention’s continuous sessions.

This summer I stood in Independence Hall where our Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution.  George Washington’s chair is still there. I wanted my kids to see the Liberty Bell, visit Independence Hall and learn the story of the birth of our nation. I want them to appreciate their rights as American citizens.

This summer we visited Philadelphia and toured Constitution Hall with the boys

Mr. Krauser is a passionate, non-partisan speaker. He spoke to a full house and was entertaining and informative.  Mr. Krauser advised us to learn as much as we can about the Constitution so we could protect it. I agree.

Proud to be an American,
Mrs. Kenney