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Capital Region CANstruction 2014

Last year, we took the boys to the Capital Region Canstruction display at the New York State Museum and they loved it. The event raises awareness of hunger in cities across the United States. The event in Albany is sponsored by companies in the area that “compete” with their structures around a theme. This year, the theme is Story Land and once the display period is over (April 24) all of the food items that made the works of art will be donated to feed people via the Food Pantries for the Capital District.

Capital Region Canstruction 2014

Like last year, we brought cans of food with us to vote. People that visit the 4th Floor Terrace Gallery will see all of the entries for this year and be able to vote with a can donation for their favorites. The boys take this very seriously and went around several times before they selected the one that was their favorite.

Once we entered the gallery, we were greeted with two familiar Disney friends.

Capital Region Canstruction - Toy Story

Yes, Buzz Lightyear and Woody were ready to go on an adventure in dining to help those in need. I have to say, I was in love with this one and just wanted to stay and explore more of this design. Of course, the boys caught some other canstructures and we were off to catch a train.

Capital Region Canstruction - I Think I Can

I Think I Can really captured the spirit of this Story Land favorite. The colors in the food items really made the Little Engine that Could come alive. From here we were off for some Pure Imagination.

Capital Region Canstruction - Pure Imagination

You could almost feel Willy Wonka’s presence and imagine Augustus Gloop reaching into the chocolate river of cans. Of course, we did not stay here long because Sam-I-Am was right across the way.

This display of Green Eggs and Spam made the first grader in the group fall in love. He adored seeing something familiar.

Capital Region Canstruction - Green Eggs and Spam

From here, we walked back to the other side of the Toy Story canstructure. This is where NHL and TechyDad fell head over heels (pun kind of intended) for the following creation.

Capital Region Canstruction - Alice in Wonderland

This beautiful piece of art really used a lot of items to make the three dimensions pop. I mean check out the bags of marshmallows for the petticoat on Alice’s dress. Yes, I am giving you permission to look up her skirt.

Next up was another familiar Dr. Seuss character. I do believe he shall not only be hearing the Who’s, but helping the hungry.

Capital Region Canstruction - Horton Helps the Hungry

The poem of sorts on this one really stole the show for creativity and using social media in the mix.

While continuing through Story Land, we bumped into more literary classics. Check out how James is climbing the Giant Peach with the caterpillar.

Capital Region Canstruction - James and the Giant Peach

Even a picture book favorite came swimming into town to say hello.

Capital Region Canstruction - The Rainbow Fish

The Rainbow Fish helped us along to the last stop. I do believe you may recognize this funny little fellow with his feet stuck in a jar of honey.

Capital Region Canstruction - Winnie the Pooh

Poor Winnie the Pooh got a bit caught up here, but it was for a very good cause. When we finished our first tour around, the boys went back to look at everything before they placed their cans into their vote for favorite canstruction design.

Which is your favorite from glancing at the photos? I would love to know if you have been to the Capital Region Canstruction event or one in another city. If you live in the Albany area, Capital Region Canstruction will be at the New York State Museum until April 24.

It's Me

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Reminder to Refuse the Tests

It is no secret that I am passionate about education advocacy. I am a teacher and I am not too shy to admit that for the second year in a row I will be refusing the tests for my oldest son.

Public School Parent Advocacy

My fifth grader will not be taking the New York State ELA and Math exams that begin on April 1. While the date is humorous, it really is no joke that the kids of NYS and across the country are being used as guinea pigs. This generation of students are taking high stakes testing that is tied to the new bungled Common Core Standards. Please understand that this is not about making education more rigorous for our children, and improving public education like the education reformers claim. Follow the money trail and check the facts. This is simply about the privatization of public schools and companies like Pearson, Gates, and others making BILLIONS off our our children and their data. Yes, most of this is just about data and companies hungry to make money off of it.

The Innocent Victims of Common Core

Please take a moment and view this powerful video from Change the Stakes. When you finish watching, remember this is the reality that all of the children in grades 3-8 in New York are going through all year long.

Do not forget, as parents and guardians, you have the right to refuse the tests for our children. There are no consequences for children, schools, teachers, or districts. Scare tactics are being sent out via the New York State Department of Education. Commissioner John King is spreading his propaganda about how the tests will help students, but it is not true. Our children are more than a number. My kids and yours deserve to be learning in a way that does not focus on tests that give us no feedback. Teachers are professionals that know how to use authentic assessment tools to let us know how our kids are doing. High stakes testing needs to end and we must move away from the theory that Common Core is a mess simply because of the implementation. That is a myth, but only made matters much much worse for the kids that are stuck dealing with this on a daily basis.

It is time to stand up tall and join the education revolution and REFUSE the tests because it is the right thing to do for your children. For more information about refusing the tests (it is NOT too late) please head over to NYS Allies for Public Education to learn more.

It's Me

Previous posts about education advocacy:

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Choose to Refuse in New York

High Stakes testing is nothing new to the world of education, but the pressure on children has shifted greatly in recent years. Tears, anxiety, and lack of passion for learning is the new norm thanks to hours spent getting ready for these tests. As an educator, I never thought I would go against the powers that be, but I did last year. That’s right, last year I was one of the many parents across New York that decided to refuse the NYS Language Arts, Math, and Science test for my then fourth grade son.

Choose to Refuse

It was a personal decision for us at the time to go against the grain and be one of very few in our area to do this. While the Opt-Out Movement was huge in Long Island and Buffalo region, the Capital District has been slow to grab hold. The reality is that high stakes testing is just part of the horror that is happening in our schools thanks to the shift to Common Core. TechyDad and I knew that the tests were not going to be a good experience for our son. He would likely do very well, but the stress from practice testing was causing uncalled for levels of anxiety. I was questioned by administration. I was told it would hurt the school (funding), his teacher (APPR), and beyond. Thank goodness I knew what to expect. I was ready to combat the propaganda that was tossed at districts from the New York State Department of Education.

On Friday, I sent my letter in to refuse the NYS Math and ELA exam and all field testing for my son. This was just about a month before the exams are to be given to children in grades 3-8. Once again, I am confident in our decision. The tests do not help teachers or parents to know academic growth or problem areas of children. Why? The answer is simple, we are not allowed to see the tests or analyze them to see spots that apparently caused the kids problems. Basically, they are secretive and made by a company that makes an obscene amount of money off of the world of education.

NYS Testing

This year, many more families are expected to refuse the tests not only in New York, but throughout the United States. Thanks to the NYS Allies for Public Education the word is getting out that parents have the right to “Choose to Refuse” in New York. This video made by NYSAPE is a fantastic resource and must watch so you know the rights for your children.

For too many years, we have been taught to blindly trust those in charge of the world of education. Right now, families across the nation and New York are standing up and saying that enough is enough. We are not going to sit back and let this testing madness continue. Our children deserve a proper public school education like past generations. If we don’t stand up and fight, the victims will be our kids who have already suffered enough in recent years.

It's Me

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Autism and Sensory Overload

There is something hard for me to admit as a parent. For years I did not understand my own son and his sensitivities to different items. One minute he would hide and cry from a vacuum cleaner, but the next he was dancing to loud music. Another day, he might be smiling and happy, but moments later he would shut down and crumble before my eyes. I knew something more was going on that I could not and probably will never understand. Of course, without a point of reference and a diagnosis it is hard to convince other adults that your kid is not simply being an out of control brat with no manners.

Autism and Sensory Overload

This is the life a parent of a child with autism lives with every day. We never know when we wake up if it will be a calm day, or a day filled with anxiety and sensory overload. What is sensory overload? It is a reality for most people living on the autism spectrum. Kids who are learning the social cues of life in a world filled with neurotypical rules are stuck trying to learn to cope with items that you and I may take for granted. That clock ticking away in the classroom could be like nails on a chalkboard to me. Those fluorescent lights that buzz and flicker which we learn to ignore or never notice, could hurt a child’s head and eyes and make them more sensitive in an environment.

To this day, I still have to remind myself that when NHL thinks I am yelling at him it really may be his perception. With everything else in the room, car, or store going on, my regular talking voice may be too much for him to handle. Even several years into our autism diagnosis, I still have to stop and remind myself that just because it is not bothering me, it may be highly alarming to NHL. What’s harder for me to grasp, he does not know anything different. These heightened senses that can lend themselves to moments of sensory overload are his norm.

Curious what it may be like? The other day someone shared a link to a post on TheAutismSite.com. They included a video that everyone working or living with people who are on the autism spectrum should watch. It really is an eye opener and like no other I have seen before.

The short video breaks my heart and the words at the end are beyond powerful. There truly are no words, just moments where I know that sharing this will help more people to be aware. As always, knowledge is power and so is educating others about those individuals living on the autism spectrum.

It's Me

Some of my other posts about autism:

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Autism and Perception

Perception seems to be a buzz word when it comes to living in the world of autism. This is a good thing and a bad thing at times. While an older child may look like they are coping in a certain social situation that they have been taught, they may actually be falling apart on the inside. Talk about your sensory overload moments. Here they are nervous, upset, and working their hardest not to do something that they are told by neurotypicals is unacceptable. At the exact same time, they are also trying to do what they need to do in a specific environment, and continuing to deal with other stimuli that we take for granted. Personally, it hurts my head and mostly my heart to think that this is what my son is going through each and every day of his life. He can’t simply be a carefree child, he has to be shown how to do things and just accept them, even if he may never completely understand it. While some may say, but he doesn’t know any different – that does not make it right and means he has less rights to these moments.

Autism and Perception

Just because a child is laughing and seems to be enjoying something, they may just be going along with the group because they do not want to appear awkward or left out of the group. Meanwhile, they have no idea why they are laughing, they are anxious, and all they really want is to have friends and people that understand them. Of course, everyone looking at this picture will think that the child is having a great time because they see a smile and laughter. This delayed reaction to what is really happening allows for a lot of mixed up messages about the child. Later on when they decompress and feelings, emotions, and words come out, they are raw. Tears flow from not only the child, but the parent that so desperately wishes they could make it stop and help others to understand.

As I have said before, being an autism advocate has moments that you just want to erase from your mind and never go back to. Unfortunately, many of them happen over and over and over again. You get a tough skin with time, but having to constantly fight can be draining.

Autism…

  • does not define a person, it is just how they are wired.
  • may mean that a person has a hard time replying to others in a social situation and they can be flustered finding the right words in conversation.
  • means that just looking at a person may not simply tell you the whole story. Their reality versus perception can be very different
  • often requires a person to cope and not be able to express how they truly feel while in that moment.
  • can cause anxiety when things change, or the person is not used to a social situation.
  • does not mean that a person lacks empathy or does not want friends. Most of the time they are even more in touch with emotions and they crave friendship, but too often are afraid to hurt others by saying or doing the wrong thing.

Please know that this post is not me whining about autism, a specific situation that happened, or life. I would never change my loving and amazingly sensitive Aspies, but I would change the ability of others to understand them, be more flexible, and help them not have to worry about what everyone else thinks about them. Knowledge is power and so is educating others about those individuals living on the autism spectrum.

It's Me

Some of my other posts about autism:

NOTE: The image above contains my words over gray-illusion created by 10binary that can be found on OpenClipArt.org.

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