Sunday, April 29, 2012

When Normal Is Remarkable

It's easy to take our kids' growth and progress for granted sometimes, especially when I'm busy or too overwhelmed with the big picture to focus on the details.  Today, though, something caught my eye.

Molly birdwatching a couple years ago - 
but she was twitching and chattering
at the feeder this morning, too.

Safety Guy was working with the toddlers at church today, so he wasn't upstairs in the service.   One of his best friends visited church today with his parents, totally out of the blue.  After the service I took E. downstairs to find Safety Guy, who was delighted to see him.  We went back upstairs, and while talking with E.'s parents, I noticed Safety Guy take E. over to meet some of the other teens and the youth pastor.  Big deal?  Yes, actually, it is.  Safety Guy introduced his school friend to his church friends and his youth pastor, without any prompting or other assistance.  It's a little thing, but it's a big thing - a social hurdle he handled independently this time, and I'm excited about it.

Even better, his friend is visiting for the afternoon, having dinner with us, then going to Safety Guy's youth group meeting.  E.'s parents are looking for a church with a strong youth program, and they may start attending our church.  That would be FANTASTIC for SG and E, since they don't have any classes at school together now.

It's sweet to see SG and E keep up their friendship, since each young man has challenges and quirks.  But they've found common ground and make an effort to get along.  As I listen to the sound of video games in the background, mixed with their chatter and the occasional exclamation of "Dude!", I have to smile at the normal-ness of it all.  I don't take it for granted, and I'm grateful for it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Teachers and Words

The past few days, the story of Stu Chaifetz, whose son has autism, has been high on the news feed.  Mr. Chaifetz was concerned that there was something going on in his autistic son's classroom that was badly affecting his son's behavior, and his son could not tell him what was wrong.  Mr. Chaifetz decided to send his son to school with a hidden digital recorder, and what he heard that evening sickened and angered him.  Voices of adults on the recording were engaged in inappropriate conversation in front of the students, and used insulting and bullying language toward his son.  Mr. Chaifetz took his recording to the school board.  The classroom aide was fired, and the teacher was reassigned.  He pulled his son from the school, and says his son's behavior has greatly improved.

I find this news story to be disconcerting and disturbing on many levels, as a parent and as a special ed teacher.  (There are also the legal ramifications of recording the other students without their parents' knowledge or permission.)

First, as the parent of a child with Aspergers Syndrome, I know that it's hard for me to send Safety Guy to school and hear about his day later.   Some days I dread asking, "How did your day go?"  I have to trust that the staff are doing their best and watching all of the kids who need watching.  Safety Guy is quite verbal, and perfectly able to tell us what happened in his day - but the way he perceives things and the way his teachers and classmates perceive things sometimes don't match up.  That's the autism divide, the manifestation of his "mind blindness."  He LOOKS like he should "get it," but he may not, in fact, "get it" at all when he does something inappropriate, or when he overreacts to something someone else has done to him or simply near him.  Finding the whole story in any given situation makes me long for a compact recording device, so I could know the whole situation every time.  I wish I could show him what happened and dissect it from all sides to help him better understand his world and the neurotypical world.  How much harder it must be for parents of children with disabilities that impair their ability to communicate what is going on in their lives!

Second, this really bothers me as a teacher. I've worked with special needs students and adults with special needs off and on for many years, in classroom, residential, recreational and sheltered workshop settings. We as teachers and staff working with students and adults with have an enormous responsibility to maintain our calm and our integrity in what can be very trying circumstances, and to treat people with as much dignity as possible no matter what the circumstances are.   BUT any teacher who says they've never, ever lost their cool or said something harsh that they later regret is either a saint, or a liar. 

As a parent, I want accountability for teachers and school staff.  As a teacher, I want accountability for myself and my fellow teachers and classroom staff as well.  But many of the comments I've read have had more in common with the pitchforks-and-torches mob mentality than the rational, fact-seeking, what can we do to prevent this from happening again point of view.  Was the teacher in fact in the room when these comments were made?  Were the voices on the recording the teacher and aide, or the aide and another staff member?  The bottom line is that if the teacher was there in the room, she's responsible and participated in or allowed the bullying, and she should be held accountable.

Many people commenting on this story have called for audio/video recording in all classrooms, but the thought of "Big Brother" watching and judging my every move as I teach really distresses me.  It's an impossible standard to uphold, and a terrible burden to impose, always second-guessing yourself about your every word and interaction. A lot of that already goes on in schools, without video cameras in classrooms. As teachers we are well aware of the mandate to always speak and behave appropriately toward our students and coworkers.  The problem is that the good teachers will always try to do their best and will feel unjustly targeted if put under constant surveillance, and the bad ones won't particularly care who sees or hears them until they get caught.  But what human teacher can live up to a standard of absolute perfection on the job, recorded for posterity and dissected for disciplinary action at the slightest hint of impropriety?  Who on earth would want that teaching job under those circumstances?  Not me.

There is no good answer.

I've also read an incredible amount of teacher-bashing and union-bashing in the comments on this news story (on CNN and MSNBC, and on Facebook, among others).  The teacher-bashing makes me sick at heart, because I know that most teachers are doing a good job and giving their best to their students.  We DO care.  We DO work hard.  We DO want our students to learn academics and develop positive character traits.  Tearing teachers down as slackers, calling us names because some think that those who seek a teaching degree aren't smart enough to handle a "tougher" degree program or job, telling us that we have it made with summers off and should be grateful to make as much as we do - please.  If you've never been a teacher, you need to try doing the job before you tear us down.  It's no wonder that your own children don't show us any basic respect when you feel free to tear us down this way.  Then you want to know why it's more difficult for us to maintain classroom discipline now than when you were a kid.

And unions.  Teachers' unions have done much good, but sometimes they don't do what's RIGHT when it comes to protecting students.  Tenure should have no meaning in cases of abuse, and those who abuse children should not be moved to another school to continue to work with children.  Unions need to learn from the harsh lessons of the Catholic Church's dealings with pedophile priests.

Mr. Chaifetz' story makes me uncomfortable in so many ways.  I hope his son is in a classroom now that is professional and kind, nurturing and encouraging.  I'm much less comfortable with Mr. Chaitfetz public campaign to name and shame the teacher and aide in his son's classroom.  Let our legal system take its course, and by all means present the evidence and push for justice.  But a news outlet or social network is not a court of law, and the comments section is not judge, jury, and executioner by public opinion.  I'm thankful for laws.  Let's hope they're properly enforced to protect children like Akian Chaifetz, and the teachers who will work with him for years to come.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Liebster Award and Favorite Blogs

A lovely friend of mine, Blondee from Blondee's Diary, just passed a blog award on to me.  It's the Liebster Award, for blogs with under 200 followers.  What an honor to receive an award from someone whose blog I really enjoy!

The Liebster Blog Awards is said to have its origins in Germany.  
Liebster means favorite or dearest, 
to showcase bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. 
Upon accepting the award the recipient 
must then pass it on to five more blogs of note.

I am giving the Liebster Award to the following 5 blogs:

This Sacramental Life (formerly Living Palm) is a blog by my friend Tamara, whose heart for ministering to Christian artists is amazing.  She's the wife of a pastor and mother of four teens, and an inspiring and creative woman all around.  She's been an encouragement to me in my own artistic journey for a number of years now.  She also has the coolest family, and I wish we didn't live half a continent apart now.  I want to be like her when I grow up!

A Sugar & Spice Life by Christine Zorn, which gives a tender and unvarnished look at life with her amazing family, including her daughter Sam.  Sam just turned 4 and has autism and a seizure disorder, and is a delightful little girl who faces many challenges.  Her mother's love and courage shine through in every post.

Confessions of an Aspergers Mom by Karen is a blog close to my heart, because we are facing very similar struggles raising teen boys with Aspergers Syndrome.  Karen is amazing, facing trials and finding joy every day with her guys.  Her posts are brutally honest and don't candy-coat the challenges our sons face, but she rebounds with hope and determination after each struggle, and shares her joys as well as her struggles.  I wish I could meet her for coffee, but we'd need DAYS to talk - an afternoon just would not be enough.

Willow Tree Pottery is written by Julie Cavender, a fellow Etsy artist.  She makes truly beautiful ceramics, and is also a gardener.  I always enjoy seeing what she's been working on in her studio and her yard.

Oswego County Guinea Pig Rescue is the blog of the guinea pig rescue founded by Jennifer Johnson.  She's a sweet lady who really cares for the guinea pigs she rescues and rehomes.  She also has a shop on Etsy (where I originally met her, and purchased two of her snuggle pouches for our guinea pigs, although her shop is currently on hiatus).  I'm a big fan of animal rescue organizations, and hers is great.

Please take a moment and visit some of these blogs - they're wildly different, but each are special in their own way.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rescue Me

I've heard of all kinds of animal rescue organizations, and I have a soft spot in my heart for homeless creatures.  We've adopted rescued guinea pigs, and all three of our cats are from shelters.  Last weekend I adopted another poor unwanted critter.  The reason my husband didn't blow a gasket (since I received the "NO MORE ANIMALS PLEASE!" request after our fourth guinea pig, two years ago), is because our latest addition isn't a mammal, bird, or reptile.  It's low maintenance, quiet, and easy.  It's a goldfish.  A BIG goldfish.

I kind of fell into this adoption.  I went to PetSmart to pick up a couple small goldfish, since over the past few months some of our older fish had died, and the tank was looking rather lonely.  The saleslady asked me what size tank I had  (75 gal.) and what I was looking for (goldfish).  She asked me if I'd be interested in any rescued goldfish.  RESCUED goldfish?  It's not like you see them with "free to good home" signs by the side of the road, so I was curious.  It turns out a boy had purchased a few common goldfish from that store quite a while ago.  They grew and grew, and outgrew their small tank.  So, rather than flushing his pets, the boy brought them back to PetSmart to see if they could take them and find them new homes.

The saleslady told me that PetSmart normally doesn't take back animals or fish, because they cannot resell them.  They can only give them away for adoption.  This boy had brought these fish in literally minutes before I arrived - they were still in their ziploc baggies, and the boy was still there.  Now, I wasn't imagining big goldfish, so I was surprised to see three BIG GOLDFISH in the holding tank in their baggies.  One was orange with a white edge on its tail, and about 6.5" long.  The other two were slightly smaller, and all white.  I didn't want to overload my tank with big fish (because all of my other fish are much smaller - the koi is 5" long, the others are less).  But I decided to take home the orange fish, because he was husky and healthy.  I promised the boy I'd take good care of his fish.  I also bought two little shubunkin goldfish (which PYY promptly christened Fred and Bob when I got home).

Meet Leviathan (Levi for short - Tech Guy suggested the longer name):

Levi is a big guy, about 6 1/2".  (Or gal? I'm not sure.) 
For comparison, the fish in front of him is Tiger,
who is about 4.25" long, and most of that is his tail.

And that's how I came to adopt another pet, and still get to keep my husband. ;-)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Weekend Busy-ness

The last few unblasted blossoms on our cherry tree, 
which was hit hard by the frost last week.

It was good to have a "free" weekend.  It seems like our spring "break" was one long round of appointments, to do lists, driving all over New York state, family visits, kid sleepovers and play dates, and house chores.  It was good to have a couple days to just be as busy as we wanted to be at our own pace, AT HOME.

My husband has been working on our upstairs bathrooms.  We'll be getting new tile floors put in them next week, so he's been upgrading the cabinetry and fixtures while we wait for the "main event."  He's been painting the cabinets, removing glued-on cheap mirrors from the walls, touching up the paint on the walls, and removing and repainting the baseboards.  The bathrooms will look so much nicer when they're put back together, but for now we're at the "it always looks worse before it looks better" stage. 

I did a bunch of garden chores yesterday and the day before.  Mulching, weeding, transplanting and planting - it was very good exercise, and very therapeutic.  I scored some inexpensive rose bushes at Aldi ($3.99 each, so I bought 2 - 'Arizona,' which is a coppery gold fragrant grandiflora, and 'Camelot,' which is shrimp pink, old fashioned in form, fragrant, and also a grandiflora, if you're curious), so I planted those.  A new low spreading yew bush took the place of the unhappy rhododendron in the front yard (which is potted and awaiting a new home next door).  I moved some penstemon that were wildly out of place in the front yard and put them in the back yard in the first planting box on the uphill side of the property.  We'll see how that box fills in.  Right now it's got aster 'Bluebird,' rose 'Camelot,' ornamental grass Miscanthus purpurascens, siberian iris seedlings (out of 'Tropic Night'), and the Rocky Mountain penstemon from the front yard.  I'll fill in the rest of the space with some annuals in a few weeks.

I also refinished two items of furniture last Friday, which was a glorious, sunny, DRY day.  I sanded and stained the top of our much-abused kitchen table, so it looks if not new again, at least presentable and clean in the kitchen, instead of looking like something that belongs in the garage.  And, I repainted my favorite rocking chair, the one I use on the back porch.  The original brown color of the frame was sun-faded and the finish was starting to peel in various spots.  I sanded it, took it apart (the seat and back can be removed - they're vinyl "wicker" and almost indestructible), then spray painted it with glossy apple green Rustoleum.  Voila!  One refurbished, cheerful rocking chair.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We're Off To See The Wizard

Tomorrow we'll be taking Safety Guy for a reevaluation with his psychiatrist.  He hasn't been to see Dr. A. in almost two years, but we want to keep current with SG's diagnoses, abilities and needs.  We want to talk to Dr. A. about recommending a counselor to work with Safety Guy through his teen years, especially since I think we're seeing the looming shadow of depression coming over the horizon.  Depression is very, very common among people with Aspergers, and we have a strong family history of it as well, so SG has multiple strikes against him on that score.

I just spent over an hour copying academic information for Dr. A. (not counting running out of ink and having to dash to the Rite Aid down the road 5 minutes before it closed to buy their last cartridge of printer ink).  I want him to have everything he needs to get an accurate picture of Safety Guy's progress and problems at school over the past almost two years.  Good things and bad, easy and difficult, official and unofficial - we need to talk, take stock of where we are, and make plans for the next year or so. 

I'm grateful that a friend of ours from church will be keeping Princess Yakyak for us during this appointment.  It's a win/win, since this friend's daughter is PYY's best friend at church.  The girls will entertain each other all morning, and we can focus on SG without having to referee or worry about PYY sitting in a psychiatric waiting room at a major teaching hospital.  She's too young for us to be comfortable with that.

So we're off to see the wizard, although Dr. A. would be the last person to claim the flash-bang magic of the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz, and he's absolutely the real thing, not a sham.  But traveling through autism with our son sometimes feels like walking through another world, where the rules change at random intervals, and things can get pretty weird.  Most days I feel like the Scarecrow (always my favorite character from the movie, bless Ray Bolger), although I have my Cowardly Lion moments too.  (Don't ask my kids about the Flying Monkeys - I've been the Wicked Witch a time or two or three as well. . . .)

Just a little everyday "magic" tomorrow would be nice - kindness and understanding, compassion and help.  That's all we're looking for.  And I'll skip the rest of the Oz jokes - for now ;-)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Keeping Up Appearances

If you've never seen "Keeping Up Appearances," this classic British comedy from the early 90s is wonderfully funny.  Hyacinth Bucket (which she insists is pronounced BOUQUET) is always trying to appear more upper class than she and her long-suffering husband Richard really are.  In fact, they're just your average, middle class couple with a grown son (Sheridan, always away at college, always asking for money, and a serious blind spot in Hyacinth's socially acceptable radar), and the extended family that Hyacinth finds to be waaaaay below her pretensions to social status. 

Now why is this on my mind?  It's related to Safety Guy.  Only he has the opposite problem to Hyacinth Bucket (excuse me, BOUQUET) - he is mostly oblivious to appearances.  Teaching him to navigate the social ocean means trying to teach him that appearances do matter sometimes, and that how other people see him is important to some degree.

This social minefield was much easier to deal with when he was little.  People don't have as many preconceived notions about little boys as they do about teenagers and young men, at least not notions that may lead them to assume the worst about them.  Young men are often unfairly suspected of sleazy motives and inappropriate behavior.  I've had awful thoughts about how various scenarios could play out in Safety Guy's life as he grows up due to his lack of social understanding.  He just doesn't see how others could perceive his actions as negative or hurtful or careless.  That frightens me.

Then there are the news stories that occasionally come up where the person accused of a crime also has Aspergers.  I always cringe when I hear the newscasters say that the suspect has Aspergers.  Often the suspect's Aspergers is inferred to be part of the cause of the crime, or a mental deficiency that limits the person's responsibility for their actions.  I'm not sure what to think of the "Aspergers Defense" when a crime has been committed.  I know our son knows right from wrong, but I also know he doesn't see the world the same way most people do, and sometimes doesn't react the way the world expects him to.  Some people fear racial profiling.  I fear profiling based on our son's autism.

I feel like I have to teach our son to "pass" as "normal" in a world that is primed and ready to think the worst of him because he's a big young man and to distrust or think less of him because of his Aspergers.

But I am also grateful for the people who give our son the chance to explain himself when he doesn't understand the ramifications of his actions, and who help him make better choices in the future.  These are the kind of people I hope our son runs into more often than the ones who will be quick to judge him as defective or assume he is potentially delinquent or incompetent due to his autism spectrum disorder.  I really, really appreciate our friends and neighbors who take the time to explain things to Safety Guy, and who will approach us with concerns about his behavior without condemnation or drama.  The people who will say, "Hey, I think you should know about this and talk with Safety Guy about it."  These people care about him and his future.

To them I say again, THANK YOU.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Break? I Guess So. . . .

 Today was the last day of school before spring break.  Actually, the kids weren't too squirrely in school today.  At least I had a choice of classrooms to sub in.  I gave the call-center lady a laugh when she asked if I was available to sub at 6AM, and I said, "Honestly, it depends on who needs my help today."  And I wasn't joking, especially after yesterday's sixth grade marathon class.  Anyhow, my choices today were sixth grade again, or high school social studies.  Guess which one I chose?  It wasn't sixth grade ;-)

For being a break, we've got quite a few things planned to do.  No tropical vacation, alas, but we will travel to visit family, attend Easter service at our church, have a doctor's appointment, dental appointment, and massage for me, a psychiatric re-eval for Safety Guy, haircuts for the kids, shopping with Princess Yakyak, and possibly a morning of horseback riding somewhere in there.  Oh, and a sleepover tonight for Safety Guy and a friend, here.

Safety Guy's friend E. will be coming home from Boy Scouts with him, and going home tomorrow afternoon.  The guys should have fun, and while I'll get them some snacks and drinks, they won't involve caffeine or sugar.  I've learned my lesson, since E. has ADHD, and the caffeine doesn't do SG any favors either.  I expect a long evening of living room wrestling, video games, fart jokes, burping contests, and cries of "Duuuude!" And I'll love it for its sheer normalcy, since I used to wonder if Safety Guy would ever have friendships like this.  So bring it on!

Monday, April 2, 2012

More Than Awareness

Today is World Autism Awareness Day.  I'm a little ambivalent about yet another "world" day for another good cause.  Really, I'm not sure how much is accomplished by these big PR blitzes.  I won't say they're not good and even necessary, because everyone should be aware that things like autism are serious issues in our society (and in fact all over the world, whether or not the population is educated enough to even know that autism exists).  I do worry that in our sound-bite society that these "special days" can take the place of everyday discussion and compassion.  Aspergers is a 24/7 reality for our family; autism is a year-round issue for anyone affected by it.  Having a "special day" almost seems to trivialize it rather than highlight it.  So I debated even doing an autism-related post for World Autism Awareness Day.  Then a couple things happened over the past week to change my mind.

One was a conversation I had with a high school student during study hall last week.  I was monitoring the study hall with a couple other staff for one period, and a young lady approached me and we started talking.  Initially it was about teaching (how I came to be a sub), and I asked her what careers she was interested in.  She mentioned art, and we talked about how I am also an artist, but without formal training, and the reasons for that and for my career choice.  Somehow our conversation wandered around to the point where I mentioned that our son has Aspergers, and that I enjoy subbing where I can be aware of what his school environment is like, and get to know his classmates and teachers.  The young lady hesitantly asked me what Aspergers is, and said she'd heard the term but didn't really understand what the disorder involves.  I explained to her about Safety Guy's social challenges, his mind-blindness, his ability to hyper-focus, his single-mindedness, his literal-mindedness.  She was very interested, and said she'd never really thought about how Aspergers affected someone's life.  I enjoyed sharing with her, and it made my day to see her take an interest in my son and his world.  And now there's another student in our school who knows a little bit more about autism and Aspergers, and will never look at people affected by it the same way again.

The other neat thing that happened this weekend involved Safety Guy.  There is a family at our church whose young son has severe, "classic" autism.  "Zach" is about 7 years old and nonverbal, although he communicates quite a bit through tone of voice and body language.  Zach stays in the church service with his family until the children are dismissed to children's church after the worship songs.  Sometimes he makes noises during the music, and sometimes he wants to walk around, and during children's church he often wanders around the classrooms.  His parents would often spend the second half of church taking turns minding Zach instead of being able to sit through the sermon and hymn together.  Our pastor and elders decided that it would be a good idea for our church family to help Zach and his family, to give his parents a break and a chance to relax during church and to help Zach to get to know more people at church.  A couple months ago they put out a call for volunteers who would be willing to mind Zach while his parents were at church, and I was one of the people who signed up.  Yesterday was my first day to be Zach's helper.

When Safety Guy realized what I'd be doing, he asked if he could help too.  He's familiar with Zach from seeing him downstairs during children's church, since when SG volunteers in the toddler nursery, sometimes Zach would come in with them.  It turns out that Zach loves Safety Guy.  (I'm not surprised - SG is a magnet for young kids, who love that a really big kid likes to spend time with them.)  So we spent the morning with Zach. While hanging out with Zach, SG asked how Zach's autism was different from his Aspergers.  We had a good conversation.  We talked about verbal and nonverbal communication, and being able to communicate at all.  I helped SG pay attention to what Zach was doing with his fidgets, the tactile and kinesthetic input he was looking for.  I talked directly to Zach himself, not around him, and included him in the conversation, and pointed out to SG that just because Zach couldn't talk, that didn't mean that he couldn't hear or understand.  SG asked questions about Zach's vocalizations, and how I could tell if he was excited or upset (pitch, tone, and facial expression).  Safety Guy talked to Zach, and handed him a musical toy and watched his reaction, and gave him other manipulatives.  Many times during our conversation Zach would pause and make eye contact with one of us for a few seconds at a time, which I found to be very exciting.  Other times Zach would stop still and listen intently - to what, we couldn't tell, but SG was intrigued by that since he himself is extremely sensitive to auditory input, and can sympathize with not being able to tune things out.

Just before the service ended, Zach wanted to walk around downstairs, and we ended up near the back door stairs.  Safety Guy sat down on the landing, and Zach wandered over to him, leaned against him, and ran his hands through SG's hair - a quiet, affectionate gesture.  Safety Guy said that Zach has done that before, and that he enjoys spending time with Zach in church.  I was so touched.  These two boys, each with their own autistic tendencies and struggles, each in an inner world of their own, both trying to navigate the wider world that is so often overwhelming and frustrating for them, had found their own way to connect and were at ease with each other.

It was a sweet way to end Palm Sunday, the day before World Autism Awareness Day.  I pray not just for autism awareness, but for acceptance for Safety Guy and Zach, and everyone else like them.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Time For Us

 Looking south on the pier in Skaneateles, NY.

Yesterday my husband's sister spent the day watching the kids while we went out to get some time together.  We don't do that as much as we should, and when she offered, we gratefully accepted.  Even though it was a cool, gray, dreary, misty day, we enjoyed going to Skaneateles Lake, eating lunch out, window shopping, walking on the pier, and going for a long drive around the lake.

It was simple - no frills for us that day.  Just lunch at Doug's Fish Fry, and dessert at the Skaneateles Bakery, and both were delicious.  I enjoyed tne childlike indulgence of sitting right beside the aquarium at Doug's, watching the freshwater tropical fish while we ate (gumbo and onion rings for me, fried fish and homemade mac and cheese for my husband).  I had key lime cheesecake at the bakery, while Tech Guy enjoyed a red velvet whoopie pie.  I see extra workout minutes for both of us this week, but it was totally worth it.

It was a pleasure to go window shopping.  Antique stores, jewelry shops, artisan goods of all kinds, it was just relaxing.  After we finished wandering and looking, we went for a nice drive around the lake.  It's one of the Finger Lakes of New York, so it's long and narrow, and runs from north to south between deep rolling hills.  It's a shame the weather was so gray, but the lake had its own beauty, reflecting the misty sky and the brown-gray hills, with touches of golden yellow at the edges from the blooming forsythia planted by many of the lakeside homes.

 A stained glass koi window ornament, 
and behind that the pier and "gold coast" of the lake.

We had fun looking at the waterfront properties, which ranged from little cabins and "camps" all the way up to massive mansions, with every variation in between.  We make a game of picking out locations with a view, as if we could someday buy property and build to suit ourselves overlooking one of the Finger Lakes. Who knows, someday we may be able to do that.  Until then, we'll enjoy visiting and dreaming.