Friday, May 4, 2018

Cinematic Experience with Open Captions

Periodic announcements make their way to us with a schedule of "open captioned" movies at a Pittsburgh-area theater, the AMC Waterfront 22. The Waterfront isn't very close to our home, nor is it a place we enjoy spending time. And the movie offerings haven't been too alluring. We don't partake of the cinema very often due to other people and lack of captions. (Closed caption devices tend to ruin the movie.)

Then came an announcement for Avengers: Infinity War with open captions.

After taking in every Marvel movie (with the exception of Black Panther, still working on that one), I figured the new Avengers movie was a film worth seeing in the theater, even if it meant a 45-minute drive early-ish on a Saturday morning. 

The open captioned show times do not occur midday.

Infinity War has not been on my radar. Honestly, the superhero thing has been wearing itself out. Ever since Civil War and Ragnarok, they haven't been as exciting. So it was mostly the captions that brought me out of our home theater. At 10am on a Saturday, I figured there wouldn't be many other people. It might have been the perfect outing.

Except that it was opening weekend for a blockbuster film. I still can't believe they open caption on opening weekend. That's pretty cool when you think about it. The theater was remarkably busy, the feature film's captions were perfection and it was, in fact, Avengers: Infinity War was the ultimate superhero crossover event of all time.

There are just a couple of notes I'd like to pass along to the AMC.

  1. It's weird that the captions weren't advertised. I got a flyer from a third party, but there was no indication I could find online or in the building that the showing would be captioned. Don't you think just about everyone would want to know whether they wanted the captions or not?
  2. A captioned feature film should have captioned previews. And captioned commercials. And captioned stupid pre-preview interviews. If you wonder what you should caption, the answer is simple: ALL OF IT. There were portions of the forever long pre-movie garbage that just had an image on the screen with a voice over. How would that be accessible to someone with hearing loss or deafness? Isn't it pretty rude to make only part of something accessible?
Overall, this was one of the best movie theater experiences we've had. If it was up to me, there wouldn't even be an extended period of "front row" screen facetime extra report madness before seventeen previews, but that's the price you pay for seeing a film in the theater. (Other than the price of admission.) But if there has to be a Coke commercial, figure out how to caption it. Then, going to the movies might really be perfect.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Traveling with Hearing Aids

Before long, summer vacation will be here. It's hard to believe from the daily coating of snow we're getting every day in Pittsburgh, but the kids are entering the last marking period. The last day will be upon us soon.

We don't have plans to travel this summer, but a hearing aid "go bag" remains packed just the same. This spring marks the 10th anniversary of my daughter's hearing aid use and we've developed some wisdom when it comes to traveling with hearing aids.

What to pack

In the early days, I was prone to overpacking and would jam both of our Oliver the Elephant Phonak packs into the luggage. The calm that comes with experience has helped to narrow down the gear to essentials and emergency supplies only.

The Magic Ear Travel Pack

The Hal-Hen drying jar with Julia's old pink Phonak Naida hearing aids inside (the foam part keeps the aids cushioned during travel)
The Phonak-provided drying jar to store the old pink Phonak Naida hearing aids once we reach our destination
A hearing aid case for poolside hearing aid removal
Replacement ear hooks
Replacement microphone cover pads and the little tool used to perform the replacement
Extra tubes for the ear molds
A 50/50 mix of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol in a tightly sealed bottle that's also inside a baggie to prevent leaks (we fill her ears with this solution each night before bed on days when she swims and haven't had swimmer's ear since)
*Not Pictured because it doesn't fit inside Hello Kitty* A dry bag for added moisture protection if your travels take you to the water

All of this fits neatly inside a little Hello Kitty pack. Magic Ear Kids (the book) has a table of common problems and easy fixes using the above list of supplies.

Pro tip: remember to take the batteries out of the travel kit when you're back home. I've lost a lot of batteries to the zippered pockets of bags packed for a day trip. Five-year-old batteries just don't last like fresh ones.

Airport Security

The TSA checkpoint is always a high-stress portion of what's invariably always a long day of travel. On our last flight, my backpack carryon didn't come through on the conveyor belt. It was whisked into a queue for additional screening. Apparently, a rolled up fleece blanket, our snacks for the flight, and a bag of leftover Cocoa Puffs triggered a special search. Already flustered by retrieving my shoes and reassembling various electronic devices and a winter coat, it occurred to me that even the best-laid plans are no match for TSA agents. The best one can hope is that it will go smooth-ish.

Here are a few things to remember when traveling with hearing aids, especially for children:

Kids under 12 DO NOT have to remove their shoes. The shoe rule changed during my daughter's childhood, so we had the pleasure of pulling her shoes off until she was seven (that's a guess, I don't remember specifically). Then one day they told us she could leave them on. A chorus of angels sang and then the very next airport made her take her shoes off. But the rule at this moment in 2018 is leave the shoes on under age 12. Enjoy that while it lasts!

Leave the hearing aids on to go through the metal detector. Occasional stories have come to my attention over the years of kids being asked to remove their hearing aids or cochlear implant processors to walk through the metal detector. The TSA should not ask you to remove hearing aids. If they do, you should politely explain that the metal detector is not damaging to these devices and the user will not be able to follow instructions without them. The above-referenced article does indicate that some cochlear implant body worn processors can be damaged by the x-ray machine. To be extra sure if you use a device other than a hearing aid, ask your audiologist.

The Long Car Trip

Give the hearing aids a home in the car. We've driven to Disney World and after fourteen hours in the car, trash is just one of the discomforts. Snack garbage, blankets, boredom busting activities, and assorted junk is everywhere. Be sure there's a safe place to stow hearing aids and a protocol for removal. My daughter reaches into the front and hands me her hearing aids when she's ready to take a nap or just a break from listening to her parents' blather. An extra hearing aid case in the cockpit is a great idea or at least a cup holder or car pocket cubby that is a dedicated safe place. Don't put the hearing aids in a napkin or something that looks like garbage. Our policy has always been that the hearing aids are either in her ears or up front in the little center console pocket when we're in the car. If you start putting them in all kinds of odd places, you significantly increase your risk of losing them.

Don't leave hearing aids in the hot car. High heat will damage hearing aids. This poses a problem when you're having a day at the lake or even a walk on the beach when your hotel is far from the water. It's often not appealing to leave the hearing aids at home or in a hotel room and then go without them for fifteen minutes until you reach the place where you're doing the thing that you can't expose your hearing aids to. This is a great application for an old pair of hearing aids. We leave the "good" hearing aids, newer and used daily for school, safe in a drying jar at home or in a hotel room. She wears the old aids and leaves them in a case that we put in a dry bag at the beach. Other strategies we've used are packing a small cooler even if we don't have food. The main things you want to avoid are the glovebox (that's a mini-oven) and direct sunlight. Try to keep the hearing aids at the same temperature they'd be if they were on your head.

Traveling with hearing aids makes planning a trip just a bit more involved. Plan ahead so you can spend your time enjoying your destination rather than dealing with lost or broken hearing aids.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Julia Writes About Surfing

Julia had the opportunity recently to write for the Hands & Voices blog, Raising a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Child.


by Julia Resciniti

As I stepped out of the car, my feet felt the sand. It seemed to express a revolt from my sandals as it gathered on my feet and wriggled underneath them. The sensation was so foreign compared to the sand-less climate of Pittsburgh that I had grown up in. The sand had demonstrated an abnormal desire to worm its way onto every floor, into every crevasse, onto all articles of clothing, and to my own personal annoyance, into the heart of every lock of hair. But in my youthful nature, I was heedless of the ubiquitous sand that my feet sank into at every excited prance, slowing me until it seemed that I was in a nightmare where the ocean waited just out of reach because I was simply running in place.

Despite the baleful sand, I flopped down on a pastel pink board that was laid on the ground by people in wetsuits. They orbited the board methodically, stopping to congregate around my parents, the perfect contrast to how I had sprinted through the same area. Click here to read the rest...

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Magic Ear Kids book is here!!!

Magic Ear Kids: Stories About Parenting a Child with Hearing Loss is now available from Amazon in print and kindle editions!

"Hey Julia, do me a favor and pretend you're reading my book."
"Okay, Mom."
*Snaps a few pictures and reaches to take the book back.*
"I was really reading it!"

A compilation of true stories about Julia's journey with hearing loss, Magic Ear Kids takes some of the best posts from this blog and continues the story through the intermediate and middle school years. One early reader (not Julia) declared some passages to be laugh out loud funny. Of course, there's a lot of frustration and a hearty helping of triumph. The work is far from over, but we're far enough along to know that life with hearing loss offers some challenges and limitless potential. I hope other parents and the professionals that serve them will enjoy reading about our experiences.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Coming Soon... a Magic Ear Book

It's been on my list of goals for a little too long to compile the stories on this blog into an anthology for parents of kids with hearing loss. I've been storing up the middle school stories too, bad FM boots and channel surfing (FM transmitter-style). Batteries and ear mold dysfunction, it's all still happening. It's just, happily, more of a background topic.

My camera roll is full of ear mold pictures as we're still having trouble
getting a proper fit.

This fall, I'll be working on organizing our journey into a cohesive narrative that will be available in print and Kindle additions on by the end of the year.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Pittsburgher's Guide to Wrightsville Beach, NC

We headed to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina for our family vacation this year for the second time. We returned so Julia could go to Indo Jax Surf Camp for Kids with Hearing Loss. The weather was perfect and we had a fabulous time. This guide is a mix of reviews and activities from our two summer vacations to this destination. It seems most of my Pittsburgh contemporaries head to OBX each summer, but in case yins want a change of scenery here's my....

Pittsburghers' Guide to Wrightsville Beach

Where to Stay

There are plenty of accommodations on Wrightsville Beach: Holiday Inn Resort, Shell Island Resort, Blockade Runner Beach Resort,  the Surf Suites, as well as many condos and beach house rentals.
We rented a condo for the week in 2014.
In 2015, we chose the Shell Island Resort.

All suites are ocean front. The bedroom window overlooks the inter coastal waterway. Gorgeous views all around. Shell Island is also home to adorable wild bunnies that hop through the dunes.

Getting There

Early in our planning process we decided it was too expensive/inconvenient to fly to Wrightsville Beach. It would cost around $1000 for the three of us, plus a rental car or being stuck without a car. 
There are two routes to consider when driving from Pittsburgh to Wrightsville Beach, I-79 or I-95. We had a good experience driving to Orlando on I-79 last November, but I-95 is 50 miles shorter per the Google maps.
2014 - We left at 7am Saturday morning and headed for I-95. Of course, we'll never really know if this was worse than I-79, but from Washington DC to Richmond, VA we were in some of the worst traffic I've ever encountered. For 60 miles we alternated between 35mph and a dead stop. After stopping for about an hour and a half for fuel, bathroom breaks and lunch, we reached our destination at 7pm Saturday evening.

2015 - We drove down on Sunday. Traffic was much lighter and the trip took nine and a half hours just like the good Google told us it would.

Things To Do

Wrightsville Beach is an island beach town with no shortage of things to do. 

Swim in the Giant Wave Pool (it's free)

Wrightsville Beach looking toward Johnnie Mercer's Pier
I was asked multiple times during our twelve hour (2014) journey "Are we going to have a pool?" 
"Yes," I said. "There's a giant wave pool."
Mom is so fun on long car trips. 
Hours of fun in the ocean!
The water was blue and cool enough to be refreshing on the hot days while simultaneously feeling warm on the cooler evenings. We swam and played mostly on the stretch between access #24 and #27. There were shells to collect, an occasional dolphin to spot, and endless waves to jump over. I asked my husband to take a few pictures of me in the water as proof that I get in and play too. Life was better before I was aware of my ocean face. Still trying to get over that shot. I lived my lifelong dream of building what I felt was a spectacular sand castle. Once, I rode the boogie board all the way into the shore. It was a blast. I probably made a weird face.

Wrightsville Beach Farmer's Market

We're not fond of restaurants, so we shopped at one of Wilmington's Wal-Mart Super Centers on Sunday morning. It was just like a Pittsburgh Wal-Mart except you can buy beer and wine right in the store and the cashier took twenty minutes to check each person out due to her desire to carry on a full conversation in her slow southern drawl.
I refrained from buying produce at the Wal-Mart because each Monday there's a farmer's market from 8am-1pm. We bought six ears of corn, three peaches, two zucchinis, a bag of grape tomatoes, and two crab cakes for $20. Everything was delicious.
As a grocery shopping aside, there's a chain called Harris Teeter with stores on just about every corner. We shopped a second time during the week after running a bit short on food. Harris Teeter reminded me of a Market District store, sort of high end. A little pricey.

Battleship North Carolina

The World War II Battleship North Carolina is moored across from the Wilmington boardwalk. Tickets for the self-guided tour were $12 for adults and $6 for kids age 6-11. It took us about two hours to walk through, but due to oppressive heat and proximity to lunch time we sort of hustled through the last quarter of the tour. Truly a floating city, the ship had every kind of workshop to repair and fabricate parts, a tailor, a cobbler, a post office, giant washing machines, a bakery... just the fact that they fit everything into it was astounding. Imagining a life at sea on this thing really brought new meaning to that "greatest generation" moniker given to my grandparents.


We cooked at our condo most of the time, but we did take in the food scene a couple of times. The Oceanic Restaurant is the only ocean front eatery in Wrightsville Beach. The second story has windows on three sides offering breathtaking views of the water. The food was fair. I had a fried seafood platter which I anticipated would be something really spectacular. It was the same as what we get in the 'Burgh.
Slice of Life Pizza was the best looking option on the GPS as we rolled into Wilmington on Saturday night wanting a quick dinner. Our plain cheese pizza was $14.99. The crust was super thin and the sauce was heavily seasoned. I loved it. We had one piece left over after a famished family feed.
A few nights later we tried Vito's Pizza, a little shop within walking distance of our condo. It was much cheesier than Slice of Life. I didn't like it as well, but it was quick and close.
The Ocean Grill was by far my favorite meal of the whole vacation. Situated on nearby Carolina Beach, the second story was laid out much the same as the Oceanic, but the decor was more pleasant. The lunch menu was much better. Tim and I both had Mahi Tacos, their best seller. It was everything I want out of a meal. I had my mahi mahi fried. It was topped with shredded cabbage, salsa and guacamole. 
View from the Ocean Grill, Carolina Beach. The Tiki Bar on the pier looked really cool if you're into that kind of thing.
The Original Ice Cream Stand was within walking distance of our condo. They have Hershey's ice cream. It was yummy!

Johnnie Mercer's Pier

Everyone on Wrightsville Beach uses Johnnie Mercer's Pier as a reference point. It costs $2 per adult and $1 per child to walk out on the pier. You can also fish from the pier. Rates are posted on their web site.
Johnnie Mercer's Pier from above and below.
When we walked out on the pier we saw two little silver fish caught and were informed that we'd missed a small shark by a few minutes. I'm not upset about missing the shark!


Julia wanted nothing more than to buy a hermit crab at the beach. We found crabs first at a store next to Johnnie Mercer's Pier, but it was closing time and we didn't want to rush her selection. It turned out to be a good thing because the Wing's Beachwear store offers a much better deal: buy the cage, get the crab free. This ended up being a $12 savings.
We spent one rainy evening at Independence Mall. It had lots of out of business stores. Really reminded me of home.

North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher

Spoiled by the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher was nothing to write home about. I actually feel like we missed a wing or a floor. We consulted the floorplan before leaving, so strong was our sense of aquatic disappointment. For an extra $3 each we went into their butterfly exhibit. We always enjoy hanging out with butterflies.
All in all, it was nice to get out of the heat for a bit and the drive to Kure Beach was beautiful. On the way home we stopped at Carolina Beach for that awesome lunch at the Ocean Grill.


It was surf camp that brought us to Wrightsville Beach in 2014 and watching our daughter catch wave after wave caused my husband and I to have completely different feelings toward the sport. 
I felt confident that any attempt by me to stand on a moving object in the ocean would result in pulled muscles or sprains of body parts yet unknown.
My husband? Well he can tell you in his own words. "Watching the surf camp got me pretty amped to get wet myself, so I decided to rent a foamy. Trying to paddle out in the morning in the blown-out, messy surf, I got raked over and caught inside. Having not perfected my turtle roll, I decided to give up until the tide came down some." "In the afternoon, I finally got my stick to the outside. I was pretty noodled by then but couldn't give up. I caught two waves and made a total Barney of myself before coming back in."
I like to call this one "Man Contemplates Ocean."
Tim rented his board from Sweetwater Surf Shop (again walking distance from our condo). It was $15 for a half day. He's unharmed, well versed in surfing lingo, and hopefully got the surfing bug out of his system.

By 2015, I'd gained some confidence or who knows what happened to me. We took a family surf lesson with Indo Jax. I did it. I would do it again!

Next time I'll hire a photographer to take a picture of me actually surfing. I'm not sure this shot counts as definitive proof.

Fireworks by the Sea at Carolina Beach & Britt's Donuts

Thursday was our last night at the beach and there's no better way for a Pittsburgher to cap off any event than fireworks. We headed back to Carolina Beach to take in their Fireworks by the Sea and Boardwalk Blast. Look out Zambelli family! We'd heard a few things about Carolina Beach over the course of the week. One thing was that the ocean is "half Bud Light" because this is the vacation spot for people from the deepest recesses of South Carolina. The second was we absolutely must have Britt's Donuts.
We're a rather particular family when it comes to donuts, preferring only certain kinds of Donut Connection donuts. The line for Britt's was ridiculously long, like miss the fireworks long. We got ourselves some Krazy Kones and headed to the beach to stake out a spot. The cones were okay. I had a homemade ice cream sandwich that was pretty gross. I threw half of it away.
On the beach, we waited about thirty minutes with some hard core hoopies (except in the south I suppose they're rednecks) before finding out the fireworks were cancelled. We headed back to the donut line. It was twice as long as the first time we checked it out. And that was how we knew our vacation was over. Time to go home.

Butterfly Release at Airlie Gardens
We didn't have time on our first trip so I was sure to plan on stopping by Airlie Gardens. On Tuesday afternoons they release butterflies into their butterfly pavilion. It was hot walking around, but the park is huge and definitely worth the trip.

I love a big tree. Airlie Gardens has a spectacular (and very old) one.

Masonboro Island Reserve (Spoiler Alert: I give this a thumb's down)

Masonboro Island is an uninhabited island reachable only by boat. During our 2014 trip I couldn't work out how to get us there and what we would do. This year I bit the bullet and purchased tickets for a kids "Eco Cruise" offered by Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours. I read through the FAQs on the web site after spending $95 for the three of us to take the tour. I had quarters for parking ($6.50 worth) and Julia and I wore our tennis shoes because it said NO FLIP FLOPS. I read reviews and even heard from a local woman that "Captain Joe" is the bees knees of boat drivers.

We arrived for our 9am tour and found that parking was not $2/hour as listed on the web site, but $2.50/hour. Obviously this messed up my quarter calculations. To make a long story short, everything on the web site was wrong. Wear water shoes to Masonboro, just use a credit card for the parking, and don't expect Captain Joe to be anything special. The guy that skippered our boat was a crusty turd of a man.

The island itself wasn't that special. The uninhabited beach at the tip of Wrightsville Beach (to the left of Shell Island) is spectacular, we found more shells than we did on Masonboro, and it didn't cost us $95 to get there.

Wrightsville Beach Museum of History

This is a small cottage that showcases the history of the island. It was free and the historian was very friendly. It would be a great first stop to find restaurants and activities for your trip to the island.

Getting Home

2014 - Since I-95 was so horrible, we went home via I-79. It took twelve hours including our hour and a half of fuel stops, lunch, bathroom breaks, and one episode of violent car sickness. It was not fun.

2015 - We took I-79 home on Friday. Plus we dose Jules with dramamine before any long car trip since the great upchucking of 2014. The day of the week seems to be a major factor in the success of this trip. No problems on Friday. Ten hours from Shell Island Resort to our front door.

The Stuff We Didn't Do

We hit a lot of the things we missed the first time on our second go round. We still never made it to , and the "loop." We also forgot to look for the Diminishing Republic  AGAIN as we drove on and off the island.

Monday, February 16, 2015

How to Change Hearing Aid Battery Doors

Every summer, part of our end of school ritual is to change from the FM battery doors on my daughter's BTE hearing aids to the regular ones. This used to be a big deal when she had her Phonak Naida aids because the FM door didn't match the pink hearing aid. She recently got a set of Phonak Sky aids. The doors and boots match the hearing aid, so I doubt she'll be reminding me to make the change this summer. Still, the battery door change is a good starting point for what I'm hoping will be a series of how-to videos.

The tool I'm using should have been included in the pack with your hearing aids. If it was not, a thick sewing needle will do the trick.

Swapping the battery doors is pretty easy. Be sure to keep track of that little pin because losing that would surely be cause for a trip to the audiologist's office. The regular battery door makes the aid more water resistant so it's a good idea to switch to it when FM isn't being used regularly.