Sunday, January 25, 2009

Two people, one body

Most of you have read enough about Son18 to have a little insight into his disabilities. He is smart but very narrowly focused on his own agenda in life. He is funny and chatty but usually chooses not to talk to anyone. He has massive anxieties and compulsions. He is fun and interesting and frustrating and annoying - all at the same time.

But the most consistent thing I could point out would be his immaturity. He generally has been slow to reach developmental milestones. He still loves to play with his toys. He has routinely been far behind all his peers in everything from taking his first step to appreciating contemporary music.

Until now. Son18 has a girlfriend. I know...I'm even more surprised than you! But yes, between school and facebook and the phone, he has slowly developed a crush on a classmate. And apparently, she feels the same way about him.

This is simply stunning to us! He is suddenly showing us an entirely different person than what we've known for the last 18.5 years. The kid who just spent a large portion of his allowance to purchase custom pieces to add to his massive Lego collection is also asking questions about how to use cologne, wanted his own razor and shave cream, and actually seems to care what he is wearing.

Our heads are spinning. There is just a cognitive disconnect when your kid builds Lego creations while waiting for his girlfriend's mom to come pick him up for an afternoon of movie watching at her house. But that is exactly what took place yesterday.

We are happy for him that he has a girlfriend. We worry how his OCD will rear its ugly head when it comes to talking on the phone and sending messages. And we already dread the fallout when this crush is over. And let's face it, it will be over at some point. And what does that do to someone who has spent hours in tears thinking he will never have a friend?

Joy. Worry. Fear. All the emotions swirling in our heads.

But the biggest thing at the moment is just trying to get to know this new person who has shown up in Son18's body.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

1 day, 2 evacuations - what are the odds?

It started with one quick text message...


I got that message about 11:15 this morning from Son18 at school. Being more curious about why he was breaking the rules and using his phone in school than about his melodramatic announcement, I sent a text back asking why he was writing me. He proceeded to text quickly that the school had been threatened and they were in a lock down. Making the assumption that he probably should not be texting from school, I assured him quickly that if he was in lock down, he was just sit tight.

Moments passed. And then one final text from Son18...

Well if I do die, I luv u my heart out! Now I had to pay more attention. But before I could, wifey called and wanted to know if I knew anything about what might be going on at the high school. Daughter15 had called wifey to say they were being dismissed early but she had no idea when it might be.

Well, a dozen text messages and quick calls later confirmed that the school was dismissing students - some being evacuated to a nearby elementary school, some put on buses and sent home, and those who could get parents to come get them were being released to parents. And the kids - who had not seen or talked with each other during all the excitement - managed to talk to wifey, get her on the road to pick them up, and coordinate a pickup spot approved by the school during this evacuation.

Ultimately, everyone got home safely. And the news reports that there was a written bomb threat at the high school but all kids were sent home safely, the campus was closed and searched, and no explosive devices were found. So a lot of excitement, a flurry of communication, and all was well.

Tonight, after all that excitement plus the other events of our day, wifey and I decided to go out for dinner. Just as our drinks were served, the fire alarm went off in the restaurant and we had to evacuate. Now we were starting to feel cursed! Two evacuations in one day seemed almost unfair.

We drove to a nearby restaurant, managed to eat without being kicked out in the cold due to bombs, fire, locusts, or any other disaster...and it is now very nice to be sitting at home by the fire.

Tomorrow has got to be calmer, right?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Pardon me while I puff out my chest with pride

In a recent post by molly_g over at Soapy Water, she discussed the difficulties she and many other families experience each year as holiday letters pour into our mailboxes with the obligatory shout-outs about the successes of their little munchkins. And like molly, I love our family and friends and feel good about their kids...but it is sometimes hard when our best news of the year might be "a better IEP meeting than last year".

And we get this same experience every Sunday at church. We have a time for sharing that often boils down to a series of parents standing up to mention their kid making honor roll or getting some scholarship to some awesome university. I feel good for them...but I also wonder about the successes we'll maybe share one day about Son18.

So I figure, when something good happens, I'm not holding back! And this is one of those times.

As part of his school program last year and this year, we've included a Community Work Experience class. This teaches the kids how to fill out job applications, write a basic resume, etc. But it also actually sets the kids up do to internships at different places in the community.

Last year, for about 12 weeks, Son18 did his first internship at one of the local elementary schools as an aide to the kindergarten teacher. It was basically a job where he would make copies, clean glue off tables, etc. For us, it was more about the opportunity to branch out socially and work around people that he didn't know.

He thrived. The teacher loved him. The kids loved him. And by the end of the year, not only was he sweeping up glitter after the craft activities, he was actually working with small groups of kids who needed extra help practicing their new reading words! It was a great experience for him.

So we get to this school year. This time his internship was going to be more tailored to what he likes. Son18 loves reading and writing so he was set up as an intern at the local newspaper. Again, the job was initially set up to include typing (do they still call it typing?) PR notices from local businesses that would go into the paper.

He loved it. He would inquire about all sorts of things he saw and heard in the newsroom. He progressed to typing articles. He learned to do phone interviews. He learned to operate the database software that archives every article in the history of the paper. He learned the basics of the software used to layout the paper.

At the end of his 9-week internship, his supervisor felt he was doing so well and learning so much, she asked if he could stay for an extra 9 weeks!

He did. And it was incredible. Not only did he continue to learn, he ended up with more than half a dozen bylines!

He finishes that job tomorrow. He will walk away with a portfolio of his writing, an evaluation that says he ended up doing the same work that they usually assign to the college interns, a letter of recommendation that the assistant editor insisted on writing, and encouragement by the newspaper staff for him to use the partnership between the high school and the local community college to begin taking college English courses at the college as part of his senior year in high school next year.

We are thrilled. Proud. And yes, I'm outright boasting! But when you have a kid with pretty complex special needs you gotta do it when you get the chance!

I it too early to send next year's Christmas letter now???

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events

This afternoon I made a quick trip to the grocery story. Daughter15 and Son21 went along with me. Son21 actually wanted to deposit a check in the bank inside the grocery store and Daughter15 just went along for the ride.

When we entered the store, Daughter15 and I ventured off to find something yummy for dinner while Son21 headed to the bank. But in just moments he was joining us in the produce section. Our first unfortunate event was that we arrived at the store at 4:05. But the bank had closed at 4:00. Oops. His entire reason for going had been thwarted and he was annoyed. Rather than tag along with us, he quickly became bored and impatient and went off on his own.

Daughter15 and I finished gathering things for dinner and headed to check out. We didn't have many items so we chose to go through one of the checkout lines where you scan and bag your own items. Well, who was right in front of us in line? Son21. He had decided to purchase one of those new vitamin water drinks as a way of pacifying his annoyance about the bank.

But moving in behind him in line led to the second unfortunate event. For it seems the woman in front of Son21 was the slowest person in the history of human existence. She had a cart full of groceries and had scanned them all and paid for them. Now they were piled up at the end of the belt waiting to be bagged. Son21 had scanned his one item and paid before she even got started.

Now be patient with me while I share just how she went about this. Cause we surely had to be patient! She opened one bag to hold her groceries. And rather than set the one bag on the end of the belt, she put it inside the cart...which was parked behind her. And then she proceeded to use one hand to slowly and methodically lift one item from the belt, turn, place it carefully in the bag inside her cart, then turn back to the belt for the next item. Never using BOTH hands cause she was holding her gloves in the other hand. So it was one item at a time.

So we waited. And waited. And I wanted to scream "put your gloves down and use both hands and let's move along here!!!". But being the patient person I am (ahem), I did not scream. But I did eventually start scanning our groceries and told Son21 to grab them halfway down the belt, bag them, and we could be on our way. So he did. He sat his vitamin water down, bagged our groceries, and we were ready to leave just as the slow poke in front of us was walking away.

And then we discovered unfortunate event number three. She had apparently bagged and walked away with Son21's vitamin water. He was flabbergasted. Stunned. Disbelieving. And he stood there for several moments repeating "she took my vitamin water...she took my vitamin water...". I had sympathy. I also had a lot of laughter just watching the disbelief on his face. How could someone bagging their groceries in such a slow and deliberate manner make a mistake and take something that wasn't hers??

But she had. And I finally stopped laughing long enough to offer to buy him another. But nope, he was totally fed up with this whole trip and he just wanted to go home. And we heard about his vitamin water all the way home!

And again at dinner.

And after dinner.

And I have the feeling we just might hear about it some more tomorrow. And the next time we go to the grocery store!