December 7: Guns to Salute the Fallen Groundbreaking, Phoenix, AZ

Dear Students,

December 7th 2012 was a Friday. I did not have library that day, so I went with my boys downtown to witness the ground breaking for the new World War II Memorial at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza across from the State Capital building.

program

The plaza was crowded with hundreds of people, former and retired military, friends and family.

model of USS Arizona

The traveling replica of the U.S.S. Arizona was there. It is a member of the Friendship Fleet, built by Cecil and Pat Gates (an extraordinary couple, married over 65 years). The ship fell into disrepair and was lovingly restored, it is now out and back in action. My boys are wearing their Grandfather’s Vietnam Era clothing. Brady has his embroidered poncho liner he bought as a soldier souvenir in 1968. Max has his olive drab fatigues.

The boys met and shook hands with many heroes.

iwo jima

His hat says Iwo Jima survivor. I am proud that my boys can mingle with such amazing men.

uss_arizona

The USS Arizona, Pearl Harbor

This is a link to an oral history by Lamar S. Crawford, the last living survivor of the U.S.S. Arizona (Pearl Harbor). Mr. Crawford passed in December of 2011.

crawford_2

I then stepped outside the Marine compartment onto the port-side Quarterdeck. As I came into the bright light I heard the sound of airplane motors, several of them. Looking up I saw a Japanese dive bomber coming directly toward the ARIZONA. About that time, machine-gun bullets from the plane started bouncing off the tub-type gun mount immediately to my right. Realizing that we were being attacked, and that the bullets from the diving warplane were addressed “to whomever it may concern,” I did a quick dash back into the Marine Compartment!

3286094

Within minutes of our arrival at our battle stations, we found that all communications lines were dead. Explosions and fires were raging uncontrolled throughout the ship. Suddenly, the forward magazines exploded with a deafening roar. The ship raised several feet in the harbor waters, then slowly began to sink to the bottom of the shallow harbor, a total loss. Major Shapley, as Senior Officer Present, told us: “Well, men, this is it. Abandon ship. It’s every man for himself. Good luck, and God Bless You All.” –excerpted from Lamar Crawford oral history


ground breakingThe Pearl Harbor survivors pictured are Lambert Modder (left) and Nelson Mitchell (right). They are great men who do great good in the community.

airborne

My dad was a sky soldier, a member of the 173rd Airborne brigade, just like this man. Can you tell I miss my dad?

code talkers

This is the Code Talkers Monument, it is my favorite monument on the plaza. There is a second monument to the Code Talkers in Phoenix. It is at 2901 N Thomas (x street Thomas/Central). Do you know about the amazing history of the code talkers?

This is a Kindle version of a book about code talkers. I want to read it over break. Maybe you would like it too?

If you followed some of the links in my post today, you can see heroes everywhere, from the men who served, to the people that keep their story alive in our community by preserving oral histories, or restoring replicas or bringing people together to honor our vets and make history come alive.

Love,
Mrs. Kenney

Autism 101: Taking A Trip on the Polar Express

We took a family trip to this winter break. The trip was wrapped around a ride on the gorgeous Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express, in Williams, Arizona.

September_iphone_2012 1418

This is our second time, the first was when the boys were very young. The adults in our family loved the magical train ride, the caroling and the visit with Santa. I wanted to go again when Max was old enough to enjoy it, but I also knew that for as much as Max would love it, it would have some elements that Brady would not like. Like most families we can’t please everyone all the time but I knew we could find a way to put together a winter break that would allow everyone to make good memories.

brady in the snow

For this post, I asked Brady to write his impressions about the trip in case an ASD kid is looking for an autistic perspective before a trip. I will leave out the details about the Polar Express as the experience is popular and well documented elsewhere. I couldn’t find much for family with an autistic family member, so I know Brady can contribute in this area. As a disclaimer, all autistic children are different and my child’s perspective is simply his. Brady is 7 1/2 and in 2nd grade. I ask him to help me write because, it helps him express himself. It validates him when people visit and comment and it develops him as an advocate, a trait he needs to live an independent life. Like some children with Asperger’s Brady has a great vocabulary, these are his words. I think when he is not stuck for words he has a talent for expressing himself. Thanks for coming on our journey with us.

sledding

Brady’s 5 Tips for an ASD person on the Polar Express

1. Bring headphones to wear. The trip is designed for neurotypical kids who love to yell all at the same time. This is very exciting for them. Most times when a big room of children are together everyone wants to yell or cheer. The headphones will help. I sat by the window and looked out the window and that helped too.

2. Bring a blanket, the trip is very long and you can hide under the blanket to get a break from the people. Some people wear pajamas. My brother wore pajamas. I did not have any that were warm enough and layering was not comfortable so I wore comfortable clothes instead. If you are comfortable you will have a better time.

3. The hardest part of the trip was 2 times. There is the “time tunnel.” This is a tunnel full of lights that acts as a magic portal to take you to the North Pole. When you go through the tunnel the first time, the lights are blue. Everyone screams very loudly. This is not fun. On the way back you know that it will happen again, and it does. The lights are red this time. Everyone will scream like crazy. There is no stopping them. This is why headphones will be helpful. I did not like the yelling at all. But then I found humor in it because it is funny how much some children love to yell at the same time. Sometimes you have to laugh at people they are so strange.

4. Your ASD kid will probably like the M compartment or maybe F to W because there is a front and back and the you don’t want to be front or  back because they blow the horn at railroad crossings. They have to do this because it is a train. It is not part of the show. If you are in a middle car it will not be so loud. (Mom note: I put this down as Brady said, but maybe when you buy tickets you can ask for a car a distance from the horn. We were in the first car. Not sure if it can be helped).

5. They say that Santa is going to give you a gift. If this concerns you, you can click this link and I will show you what it is (yours might be a different color than in the picture).  He will not talk to you for very long because he needs time for other kids. He goes down the train car in order so you can see when you will be next. He alternates sides, he does not go up one side and down the other, he stops in the middle and talks to a child on one side then a child on the other then he advances to the next row.

christmas tree

Mom Note: We built in a multi-day trip to Flagstaff around our Polar Express. We stayed at the Little America Hotel which has beautiful lighted grounds, we played in the snow and rode our sled (purchased for $20.00 at Basha’s–is a local business and always less crowded than Wal Mart) in the pine forest behind the hotel. We made a side trip to the Meteor Crater and we enjoyed some local restaurants like Brandy’s and the Galaxy Diner. It was a picture perfect family vacation. I think if you accommodate all family members, get good rest and regular meals everyone will have a great time. If you eat at Brandy’s (recommend) it is always busy, so Brady and I sat at the counter in the corner and had a peaceful meal and the rest of the family ate at big table. It worked out fine.

Winter Break: visiting the best meteor crater ever ever ever

Dear Students,

If you looked at my calendar for Winter Break you would see I picked out a special day to travel north to take a gander at a giant hole in the ground. Can you believe this is Arizona and not the surface of the moon? No wonder NASA sent astronauts here with a moon rover to train prior to our first trip to the moon.

479204_348886231840060_337380400_o

In the end, after seeing it on TV so many times, we had to go and see it for ourselves. I bought a voucher from Deal Chicken, so our family of 4 was only $20.00. (Max was free, so I gave his ticket to someone in line, that felt good to do too!). Sites like Deal Chicken, Groupon and Living Social are the mainstay of our family recreation budget.

Inside the visitors center is an interactive museum, films, hands on display, an appealing gift shop, a Subway and this giant meteorite!

Inside the visitors center is an interactive museum, films, hands on display, an appealing gift shop, a Subway and this giant meteorite! This meteorite is the largest fragment found on site. Most of the 150 foot original meteor exploded on impact.

I wasn’t sure about visiting Meteor Crater in the winter. I thought it would be covered with snow (turns out snow melts quickly here). I thought it would be cold. The temp was 32 degrees when we started our tour but for some reason it felt fine. We were in direct sunlight and there was just a light wind. Normally it is very windy and most times of the year, very hot. I suppose winter break is the best time to go.

After our tour we posed for a picture. The tour is one hour long, but even Max did not mind. It's the best way to learn about the site.

After our tour we posed for a picture. The outside tour is one hour long, but even Max did not mind. It’s the best way to learn about the site. I hope you can visit soon!

Next time we go to Flagstaff, I will detour to the Cinder Lake Crater Field (outside of Flagstaff) and the Astrogeology Science Center. Arizona is the best place to grow up if you want to be an astronaut! What is next for NASA in 2013? Find out here.

Construction on 27-28 July 1967 of Cinder Lake Crater Field ...Construction on 27-28 July 1967 of Cinder Lake Crater Field # 1 just northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona (a) backhoe digging of 47 holes to precise depths, and in which to bury precisely-measured explosives at each surveyed crater site; red bailey back to camera P447, F106754 USGS Open-File Report 2005-1190, Figure 048a. - ID. Project Apollo (1960-1973) 048a - pap0048a - U.S. Geological Survey - Public domain image

Construction on 27-28 July 1967 of Cinder Lake Crater Field …
Construction on 27-28 July 1967 of Cinder Lake Crater Field # 1 just northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona (a) backhoe digging of 47 holes to precise depths, and in which to bury precisely-measured explosives at each surveyed crater site; red bailey back to camera P447, F106754 USGS Open-File Report 2005-1190, Figure 048a. – ID. Project Apollo (1960-1973) 048a – pap0048a – U.S. Geological Survey – Public domain image

p.s. Mark your calendar with the dates of upcoming NASA launches.

p.p.s. The Cinder Lake Crater field is full of ATV’s so the evidence of NASA training is long gone for the most part.

We passed this sign on the way to the crater. Funny!

We passed this sign on the way to the crater. Funny!

Winter Break: An Amazing Underground Lair

Dear Students,

Today I’m going to show you the Titan Missile Museum in Tucson. I took Brady there on a date last week.

odd-museums-Titan-Missile-Museum-631

The Titan Missile Museum is a unique to the area bona fide time capsule. Of the 54 missile installations (Arizona, New Mexico and Kansas), the Tucson location is the only one preserved and open to the public following the Cold War. They have a program where you can spend the night at the museum.

September_iphone_2012 1277

Definitely on my bucket list!! Would you do that? You sleep 35 feet underground inside the only missile silo open to the public. Awesome.

A surprise visitor at the museum today. That's Bill Gates in the commander's seat, with Foundation executive director Yvonne Morris and museum historian Chuck Penson. All we can say is "wow!"

A surprise visitor at the museum today. That’s Bill Gates in the commander’s seat, with Foundation executive director Yvonne Morris and museum historian Chuck Penson. All we can say is “wow!”–taken from Facebook page

If you can’t visit the museum easily, you can follow them on Facebook. I browsed their online albums and loved the pictures from their trip to the boneyard in Tucson. I made a list of science and interesting people for Brady to follow and add to online. I started the list when he was 6, he will take it over and make it his own when he is ready.

283152_10150748272795290_6564159_n

This is what remained of Titan II 20 years after deactivation. We were able to salvage a number of parts for unspecified future displays. Since our expedition in 2006 everything we didn’t take was sent to the shredder.

On our way out we picked up a copy of the Junior Missileer book. You can download your own copy here.  If you like space/science games, here is a NASA link to some games you can play online over break. You can join NASA kid’s club here and find other games.

Titan Missile Museum 14

I hope this mini-peek inside a super cool museum will inspire you to visit!

Love,
Mrs. Kenney

p.s. Titan Missile Museum was featured on The Great Escape, you can watch it here:

December Read Alouds at home and in school

Dear Students,
When I decorate our house for the holidays, I pull a sturdy red shopping bag with rope handles from underneath a table. It is full of my winter storybooks. I arrange them near my kitchen and pick a few from the shelf before I go to school.

The first week of December, I read Stranger in the Woods, a photographic fantasy. by Carl Sams II.

sitw-1

Snowmen at Night is my favorite read aloud for the kindergarten kids. After we finish the story, they make snow angels!

600171_10200158564667045_1222963808_n

 

Of course, we have to read How The Grinch Stole Christmas aloud. The Grinch comes to Changing Hands bookstore every year for free photos. I hate to post a past event (it was last weekend) but at least you will know for next year.

how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-c2a9-mgm

 

Today I read A Small Miracle by Peter Collington, story of kindness rewarded, told without words.

5175D76ZQ6L._SL500_AA300_

 

My other favorite wordless winter book is “The Snowman” by Raymond Briggs. And not just because the little boy looks just like my Max. Well, maybe a little bit because of that.

the-snowman-cartoon-by-raymond-briggs-993406246

I asked Max if he remembered when the snowman came to life and flew him around the world and enjoyed watching him try to remember that one time, ha!

tor_seidler

 

Last night at bedtime I read “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” by Hans Christian Anderson (retold by Tor Seidler). The story is set at Christmas time, and I wondered after reading it if the animators at Pixar took a few themes from this book when they created Toy Story. Another favorite “toys come to life” book for me is The Tub People.  Max is more tolerant of fairy tales than Brady is, but in this case, the soldier was made out of Tin, which is on the periodic table which was enough to make Brady give the story a chance.  I listened to this version of the STS read aloud online, and I love it for the British accent of the narrator. The Steadfast Tin Soldier is too long to read aloud in the library but I hope you can find a copy and read it at home.

I can see this will be a two part post, I’ll conclude for now. Can you send me a picture of your favorite winter read aloud?

Warm Regards,
Mrs. Kenney