Saturday, October 3, 2009

Birthday Cake

So my sweet baby boy turned seven yesterday and we enjoyed a full day of celebrating including special treats at school, a scavenger hunt for some birthday presents and dinner with family. (We have a few extremely close friends that we consider family and naturally they were included in the festivities.)

Since we moved to CA we started a tradition for Tim's birthday where we have special cakes made for him. One of the great things about being in the SF Bay area is that you can truly find anything here and there are some folks that just do amazing things. One woman we discovered three years ago is Debbie Goard of Debbie Does Cakes. I don't know how to describe her other than to say she is an artist who bakes an incredible cake.

She's come to know Tim over the last three years because she's made cakes based upon all his favorite things. Our first year here she made airplane cupcakes for his birthday. Last year we were in a Super Mario craze and she made an outrageous Toad cake with Toad driving a car from Mario Kart. (You would simply not believe her cakes!)

This year I was stumped and asked her to come up with something. I completely trust her judgment and her creativity so I gave her permission to just go for it.

Look what she came up with:

Can you believe this? This has to be the cutest cake I've ever seen! And the detail is simply amazing. Check out Charlie with his ears flapping in the "wind."

Debbie took all the things that Tim loves (Charlie, airplanes, and Super Mario - those of you familiar with Super Mario will recognize the Toad character on the plane's tail fin), and made them into a cake that could not be more perfect for Tim. (It may be hard to believe but this adorable cake also tastes amazing! I'm actually blogging between bites of the leftovers!)

I have to admit, Chuck was a bit frightened by the cake ... perhaps he was uncomfortable with the thought of that cute little golden retriever being consumed! But Tim LOVED it. In fact, as we were tucking him in to bed that night Andy asked him, "what was your favorite part of your birthday?"

Without hesitation he replied, "airplane cake."

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Like many A Club children, Tim has certain passions that border on obsessions. In particular, Tim is an absolute aviation nut. (I'm so thankful that his interests are interesting to me too!) Like any other die hard A Club parents, we leverage Tim's interests in our efforts to work on his deficits. Fortunately, aviation is a topic rife with language opportunities so we spend an inordinate amount of time at our local General Aviation airport watching airplanes and talking about anything even remotely related to aviation. We've had some great results with this strategy and I'm constantly amazed by Tim's ability to accurately identify aircraft from extraordinary distances. (Just today he spotted a P-52 Mustang, a Cirrus, two Mooneys and countless Cessnas.)

Since the arrival of Charlie approximately 18 months ago, our frequent trips to the airport have included Charlie (at the insistence of Tim.) Charlie eagerly accompanies us every time and patiently waits by Tim until he's seen enough. (Some of our airport outings last for hours ... we also have regular "picnics" at the airport which is code for having a pizza in our strategically parked car as we watch a steady stream of take-offs and landings overhead.)

I know these outings may seem odd to some but I'm certain that I'll remember them forever and with great fondness. And, of course, Charlie will be a part of every memory.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Picture Day

Monday was picture day out here and after years of refusing to buy school pictures, this year I'm giving in. (Don't even get me started on my rant about the photographers who won't take the time to effectively photograph special needs kids ... sheeesh!!!) Naturally, Tim looked as cute as ever and he insisted on including his best friend in the obligatory-if-not-annoying home photo shoot. (I just LOVE that Tim insists on including Charlie in everything!)

Hard to say just who's cuter ....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Phone Pix and Charlie's Delight

The only thing more overdue than my blog entries (not including my library books, annual physical, and oil change), is the upload of all the photos accumulating on my cell phone. I have to admit how surprised I am that I even use a cell phone camera but there have been a few occasions where I've found myself without my trusty bag-o-camera-gear and having to rely on the only other means of recording the moment. Thus, the backlog of camera phone pix.

In sorting through them I found two that I must have taken while admiring Chuck's pure delight. The first was taken on the observation platform at a small, general aviation airport near our home. It's a regular stop for us as Tim is fascinated by all things aeronautical and Charlie is always happy to scamper up the stairs and stand by Tim as they spend hours watching airplanes take off and land.

This last one seems to speak for itself: Pure joy?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Camping for Beginners

So now that we've got the first day of school successfully under our belt, I'm wistfully remembering all the fun things Charlie and Tim did together this summer. There was the beginning of summer when Andy introduced Tim and Charlie to the notion of camping in our backyard:

Naturally, the tent was a big hit - don't know exactly how that zipper survived the countless zipping and unzipping (a real testament to the tents sold in the cheap-skate section of Target!)

Turns out that a back yard tent is a great venue for evening story time so the boys spent quite a few evenings out there reading before bedtime. But at the end of each story, Tim always refused to sleep outside and insisted on retiring to his own bed.

So, we thought we'd try sleeping bags.

Another big hit. Tim crawled in and out of them, made forts out of them, and encouraged Charlie to join him. But this still just wasn't enough to spark Tim's interest in sleeping in the tent. When we asked, he always declined saying, "I want to sleep with Charlie in Tim's bed." That was enough for us. (What do I care if he doesn't want to sleep in a tent? I'm more of a Four Seasons girl anyway!)

So now, in the aftermath of summer, the tent is packed away in the garage and the sleeping bags remain in a heap next to Tim's bed so that he and Charlie can "camp" in his room.

Good enough for me.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Giants Game 2009

Tickets to Giants game: $120

Parking: $40

Wildly overpriced/undersized ball park snacks: $28

Riding the giant Coke bottle slide: included!!

Obligatory first-time-to-the-ballpark souvenirs: $15

Hearing your A Club kid tell his best friend all about his day at the game: Priceless.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Yes, It's Been a Million Years ...

I'm terribly, terribly overdue with this post and yet, as I sit here hammering away at my keyboard, I am simply too tired to be creative. The details of Tim & Charlie's summer will be forthcoming but for now, I'll re-enter the blog world with this brief but nonetheless meaningful note.

We were recently invited to attend a baby blessing for a close friend's new born son. These folks were kind enough to include Tim so naturally my thoughts turned to the MOST important issue: what will he wear?!!

Believe it or not, Tim does not have any dress clothes. He's never been invited to a formal event and, being members of the A Club, we don't typically plan outings that involve fancy clothes or frou-frou accouterments. So I've been carefully planning his outfit for at least the last 6 weeks.

It's nothing too outrageous - more like an east coast prep-school uniform complete with khaki pants, button down shirt, and some buckskin oxfords. But the piece de resistance is this little tie:

How does this relate to Chuck, you ask? Well, if you look closely at that tie, you'll notice that the little yellow blobs are actually little golden retrievers. That was the key to getting Tim excited about wearing a tie. Doesn't he just look irresistible?!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

K-9 Yard Patch

Remember this post about the annoying pee spots? And then remember my dear friend from Virginia who suggested the special biscuits that allegedly neutralized the nuclear power of Charlie's tinkle? I still love my friend to pieces but the dog biscuits ....

Anyway, I had just completed my non-scientific trial of the $10 biscuits when, through the power of the internet (and Kris Jones, the woman who makes those HILARIOUS cards) I was "virtually" introduced to Cory Sonnen. Turns out that Cory Sonnen just happens to own a grass seed company that just happens to make a product designed for this very irritating problem!

Cory was kind enough to send me a sample of his product, K-9 Yard Patch and suggested that we give it a whirl. He explained that the problem we're experiencing is due to the fact that there is something in Charlie's pee that changes the Ph level in the soil where he voids. Since he routinely voids in the same spot, the Ph is all out of whack and grass simply can't grow there.

The K-9 Patch product is sprinkled over the burned out spot and watered just like you'd water your regular lawn. I won't pretend to fully understand the chemistry of this stuff but from what I understand the powdery substance contains both a Ph balancer and some grass seed to get the grass growing once the soil's Ph is corrected.

When the box arrived from Cory, Andy ripped that package out and started sprinkling it on all the brown spots in the yard. Then we waited.

I admit: I was skeptical. (Sorry Cory.)

But, check this out:

That there is new grass growing in the formerly burned out Charlie spot. HALLELUJAH! This stuff worked exactly as Cory said it would - and I'll tell you, we were pretty certain that nothing was going to grow in those spots ever again.

Oh, and one other thing, this little company uses only environmentally safe ingredients in all their products. That means you're not messing with Mother Nature when you're repairing Fido's damage. Saving the earth and my turf - I LOVE THAT!

So, here's a big shout out to Cory Sonnen at K-9 Yard Patch and a hearty 4 paws up rating from Charlie (and his gardeners!)

Oh, and don't forget, if you're looking for Charlie's other reviews, make sure to stop by his review site to see what's new.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Finally, a Solution!

Remember the helter skelter scene I caused when I last attempted to clip Chuck's toe nails?
Well thanks to the magic of the internet and to the sage advice of Melissa Mitchell, proud service dog owner/trainer and follower of this blog, we discovered the PEDIPAWS.

This little phallic looking little device converted Charlie from a bloody sharp-toed mess, into the divinely pedicured show dog that he is (or at least aspires to be.) It's actually quite a simple tool, much like a little dremel, which allowed me to quietly file down Chuck's nails without too much difficulty.

The instruction manual offered some good suggestions for desensitizing your dog to the "pawdicure" experience (basically just introducing the device slowly, over a period of several days, and combining it with lots of treats.) I pushed Chuck just a bit as I know he's a quick study and we managed to do a complete pedi on our first try. Now he's absolutely gorgeous from his big square head to his round little toe nails. Thanks for the advice Michelle!

One other thing ... for anyone looking for Charlie's reviews, check out our new blog devoted entirely to product reviews (dog stuff will stay on this blog but all our other reviews will go here.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More Reviews

Q: Know what this is?
A: A circular model of culinary perfection. I know, I know ... a bundt cake? C'mon, right? Well prepare to relish the retro happiness of the 70's. Nothing Bundt Cakes is a bakery that produces nothing BUT bundt cakes in a wide variety of sizes and flavors. The brainchild of two women in Las Vegas, this little place is actually a nation wide franchise and one just recently popped up out here in NorCal. Plus, good news for those of you too far from the Bay Area to stop by after work ... you can actually mail order these! Check them out here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A New Ride for Charlie?

So I stumbled upon this site for Madsen Cargo Bikes and all I could think of was how fun it would be to load Chuck in the back and tool around town. (Since Tim has started to show some interest in his bicycle, it's been a bit disappointing to leave Charlie home while we ride about town.)

As luck would have it, the Madsen folks are giving away some of their bikes to folks that post links to their site and send traffic their way. SHAMELESS PROMOTION ALERT HERE: I'm posting this link because I'd like to have a chance at winning one of their bikes for Chuck. Please help us and click on this link. Looks like the drawing is in July so I'll keep you all posted ... cross your paws for us!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reviews 2 & 3 (and one extra)

I'm a bit overdue on some of my review party reviews so I thought I'd try to fit two into one post here. First up today is a cute little paper company called lobotoME.

This little company was the brainchild of a self confessed "lister" who kept multitudes of lists for home and work. When her light bulb went on, she started producing pre-printed lists for everything from meal planning to travel packing. They're all printed on recycled papers and have contemporary designs that are infinitely cooler than toting around a crumpled sticky note. They can be found at the Container Store (LOVE that place) and on line. (The "Sit Me" one seemed particularly useful for parents or folks who leave pets with house sitters.)

Next up is an interesting take on packing tape. Yup, that's what I said. (I never imagined I'd be writing about packing tape.) Although I was skeptical at first, I have to say I am a sucker for a cute package and the idea of sending all our annual gifts back east in something better than a recycled Amazon box really got me going.

This was the sample I received at the party. Not surprisingly, the packaging for the packing tape was as cute as the tape itself.

My sample is a pink dotted version with some light pink vines running through the roll. There's a huge variety of colors and patterns (at the party we saw a wood grain, cute little birds, florals, and lace patterns) and there are a few other tape-ish items like envelope wrap arounds and labels. You can find them all at Tapeswell.

Of course, I can't write a post without at least a fleeting reference to Chuck so in his honor I am providing a bonus review.

Say hello to the Frosty Paw. I spotted these little gems in the supermarket frozen section and thought Chuck might enjoy a nice frozen treat during our unseasonably hot June.

Inside the box are four little ice cream cups just like we got when we were kids. (sans the little wooden paddle-spoon.) I peeled off the tabbed top and headed outside to offer it up to the wonder pooch.

This little frozen treat is, quite simply, canine crack. I'm certain that this dog would have stood on his head and cited the Gettysburg Address for just a few licks. He licked that cardboard tub with such ferocity that I don't know how it managed to remain intact. From the time that I peeled back the top until Charlie delivered his last lingering lick, no more than 5 minutes had lapsed (quite impressive considering that the treat was frozen solid.) It was great fun to watch and I look forward to treating Chuck again. Two resounding paws up!

Party Time

We were invited to a party last Friday and the invitation included Tim and Charlie so naturally everyone (including Chuck) had to get spruced up. We ran a little short on time that day so I opted to bathe him in the back yard rather than going to our favorite dog wash and with a little prodding I was able to get Tim on board for the task. So first, we gathered up our gear, ...

... and then got right down to business. Tim happily showered Charlie ...

... and Charlie happily showered Tim.

Now that everyone was clean it was time to fret about the party. Tim LOVES parties but you just never know how things will go (A Club parents surely know what I'm talking about here.) Plus, it wasn't just Tim that we had to fret about ... what if Charlie lost his wits and demonstrated some yet unseen wacky behavior? We (actually, just me) were starting to feel a little pressure about this event.

I'm a big believer that preparation is the key to relieving stress so I decided to work with Tim on preparing for the party. We knew that there would be two other little kids there so we spent the rest of the afternoon practicing names and thinking about ways we could introduce the children to Charlie.

As expected, Charlie was a brilliant ambassador for North Star and our family (except for his need to "download a brown load" in the host's well manicured yard. Did I mention that the host was Andy's former boss? Andy quickly removed any evidence of this minor transgression and I don't think anyone was the wiser.) The children threw tennis balls for Chuck to chase, walked him around the yard like a small pony, offered countless sticks for chewing, and eagerly posed for pictures.

I think Chuck was particularly fond of this little guy because he managed to score a few mouthfuls of pasta from him during dinner. (I saw it all transpire but it was simply too cute to correct!)

While it's always great to see Charlie showered with attention, what really thrills me is when I see Tim being welcomed into a group of kids to play. No doubt Charlie was the ice breaker - these kids clearly adored him. But after wearing Charlie out, the kids all played together and that's what really makes my day.

Yup, that's Tim right in there with the other kids. Can't think of much that makes me happier than that. Of course Tim was tickled pink to play with other kids and their toys. Even today as I type this, he's been peeking over my shoulder looking at the photos and saying, "let's do it again."


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Review #1: Zen Charlie

It's been almost a week since the big "Review Party" and I've decided to kick off my reviews with what I thought would be the most difficult review for me to write. I am compelled to disclose here that I am terminally practical and as such you can imagine my knee jerk reaction when I first saw Cleansing Thoughts.

Cleansing Thoughts: a cute little meshy bag containing 5 heavy weight plastic cards, an adhesive clip and a single bath gel bead. It's billed as being a device to help you create a happy and fulfilling life by reading the inspirational messages each day as you shower. As the mother of an autistic child, I'm forever seeking inspiration so I actually put it in my shower and have read the first of 5 inspirational notes.

I have to admit, the cards seem to be very durable and the messages, although a bit cliche, are sound. (Although I'm not quite sure about my "highest good is already happening.") The card holder easily adhered to my shower tile and the cards fit tightly. Oh, and the packaging really is cute.

If nothing more, this could be a cute and inexpensive gift idea for a yoga pal or a friend from meditation class. I don't expect my life to change but I do believe in positive thinking and if positive messages in the shower help someone to keep their spirits high, then I'm all for it. All in all, a cute and frivolous little gift. (I think Charlie was a bit confused but it was his first time in my shower and his first experience with inspirational messages.)

Apparently when Kris Jones of Cleansing Thoughts sent out her samples for our party, she mentioned in passing that she also has a little card company that she's starting up and she included some samples for us. THESE CARDS ARE HILARIOUS! Check out the sample I got:

Apologies to those who aren't Seinfeld fans but this just cracked me up! All the cards were very edgy - some even down right risque - but I thought they were absolutely uproarious. All the cards are printed on heavy card stock that appears to be recycled with heavy weight envelopes. Check them out at Roast: Cards for the People You Love Most. (Great tag line too ... trust me, you won't send these cards to folks that you don't know well!!!)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pee Spots

See this?

Yup, that's what happens when a well trained dog, capable of voiding on command, chooses to void in the exact same spot every day. This is particularly vexing because Andy just spent several weeks re-landscaping our yard. (I'm talking about a major undertaking involving jackhammers, loads of dirt, and a tractor trailer delivery of a pallet of sod.) Needless to say, my patient husband's patience is wearing thin.

I mentioned this whole thing to my favorite pet shop owner (we love you, Murphy's Paw!) and she informed me that male dogs don't make brown grass. As I blankly stared back at her, she insisted that people actually seek out male dogs because their pee doesn't burn the grass. Has anyone out there ever heard that? If that's true, clearly Chuck has some extraordinary tinkle because his "pee spot" is burned to a crisp.

In my quest to resolve this problem I reached out to my dear friend in Virginia (also the proud mother of two kids and a young dog) and she mentioned a biscuit designed to neutralize whatever it is in urine that burns up my grass. A quick visit to and I had the biscuits in hand within a week.

Today we are well into a non-scientific test using Charlie as my subject. According to the directions on the box, Charlie is to receive two biscuits a day and then after 4-6 weeks we should see results in the form of a lush, spot free yard.

Week four and we're still burned out. I'm giving it two more weeks and then I'm throwing out the biscuits. (Did I mention that the biscuits smell like brussels sprouts? Eew.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blog-iversary & Some New Stuff

It's official: I'm a blogger.

I'm one year, 100 posts, and countless new "internet friends" into this little project and have to say, I'm hooked.

Of course, it's always fun to write about my boy and his dog but this blogging adventure has opened some doors for me that I would never have imagined. I've met people I would never have encountered in my REAL life and I've become loyally addicted to their blogs. I've also been taken aback by the power of the internet and the masses that will read about Tim and Charlie. (Would you believe this little blog has had 10,000 page views?!!)

Recently, as a result of my blogging, I was invited to participate in a review panel comprised of bloggers. The panel was given a variety of products to test and then blog about. We gathered locally to receive the goods (although the products came from vendors all over the country) and then engaged in spirited discussions about all the products as they were revealed to us. It was a great night with a group of diverse panelists discussing products I would never have even known about.

Anyway, my only obligation now is to blog about each one in a series of posts. I'll be honest, these products are not necessarily dog products nor do they relate to autism. This is more about an opportunity I had and a chance to do something outside the realm of the A Club. (Surely those of you in the Club know the thrill of the rare foray outside the gates of the Club.)

So, expect to see some unusual posts here in the next few weeks. Don't worry, Charlie is still right here, encouraging me to write and I'll keep writing about him as long as he gives me material to write about!