Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Power of the Home Depot

Since my last post, the bulk of my time has been spent addressing Jack’s untreatable eight-day completely nasty gastrointestinal virus, as well as my own stomach flu. My illness, while horrific, was merely a blip on the family radar. Jacky’s disease was epic, explosive, and completely all-consuming. And it lasted for soooooo long.

It’s over now, thankfully, and tomorrow Doris and Missy can once again bus my redhead to school. I can start recuperating.

Jack’s icky bowel trouble kept him from coming to the cabin for a fall harvest-y weekend with cousins and pumpkins. He stayed home with Jeff and played with the electric train and the shop vac, and went on an outing to the Home Depot.

Who knew that Jack would love the Home Depot so much? Certainly not Jeff, who gambled on Jack behaving himself during a new and unknown-type of outing. Turns out, the Home Depot is a complete wonderland for a boy who loves ceiling fans, light fixtures, and shopping carts.

It must have seemed like one ginormous garage, with it’s endless cache of power tools and extension cords, stacked lawn furniture and bags of fertilizer. Jack can’t ever get enough of messing things up in our garage. Jeff reported that Jack was quite exuberant.

He was loud enough and vocal enough that apparently Jack garnered some strange and questioning looks–the kind which used to wither a piece of my soul, but which now scarcely register on my inner dialogue of “do I care what a few clueless dolts think about my sweet Jacky’s boisterous excitement at going someplace fun? No I don’t.”

Jack was greeted heartily by an older employee, who didn’t understand why Jack wasn’t responding to his questions. When Jeff mentioned Jack’s cognitive disability, the man seemed a little embarrassed, probably, I’m guessing, because he felt he shouldn’t have been asking a disabled child questions. Not sure. Anyway, he needn’t have felt embarrassed. But he could have followed up with a high five or a fist bump, or a “bye,” which are all really basic social gestures which Jack has mastered.

I like that when Jack goes out in public, he is an ambassador of sorts for people with special needs. He just is. I used to put specialty stickers hand-crafted by my sis (who could probably find a comfortable niche selling such wares on Etsy, I’m suddenly envisioning) on the back of his shirts. They said “I have autism.” When he wore them, we no longer got the stink-eye from other people, and we certainly no longer got the “you should learn how to be a parent” comments which are burned in our memories.

Back at the home improvement store, Jeff said that as they checked out and headed for the car, they were nearly struck by a cart being pushed gleefully by a boy with Down’s syndrome, whose dad was doling out advice on how NOT to run into people while driving the shopping cart.

Jeff felt a moment of flickering kinship with the dad of the happy cart-pushing boy. Just a couple of special kids scoping out the Home Depot with their dads on a Saturday afternoon.

I’m struggling to verbalize exactly why this warms my heart so, but it really really does.

Early Thanksgiving

I received three phone calls from Jack’s school this week. I’ve already written about the paranoid uncertainty which accompanies each call. Will it be about Jack kicking another student? Did he drop trou on the playground and do his business? One never can tell. This post is a rundown of the three calls.

1) Jack’s teacher called to personally explain to me what I would be reading about in Jack’s folder from school. He’d had an off sort of day–lots of mood swings. After happily participating in PE, Jack returned to the classroom, walked straight to his teacher’s desk, picked up her laptop, and smashed it on the floor.

Complete mortification.

Miss Sue kindly explained that this event wasn’t the end of the world as she was already due to receive a new laptop anyway.

Still, completely mortified.

When I apologized and expressed this to her, she gently told me that Jack is a person who makes his own choices, and that this time, the behavior was a result of his disability. She then expressed her love for Jack, and told me that she knows Jack is loved at home–that we teach him and work with him daily, even if the lessons from our efforts don’t immediately take.

2) The second call was from Missy, the bus aide. She gave me a ring one morning simply to let me know that Jack had been such a peach that morning on the ride to school. She described to me how he had sat with his hands folded and his legs crossed, quietly watching out the window. When they arrived at school, a situation with another student prevented them from getting off the bus for several minutes. Missy wanted me to know that Jack didn’t complain or try to get up. He just waited, quietly. She told me that while sometimes Jack has his moments, she just absolutely loves him.

3) Then yesterday, Jack’s principal called. Paranoia set in as I waited for her to reveal the purpose of the call. I need to be less paranoid.

She asked me if I would be willing to serve as one of a handful of parents on the School Community Council, which addresses various school concerns, as well as writing a plan for achieving the School Trust Lands goals.

Heck yes, I’ll do it. I was intrigued, and also just pretty happy she wasn’t bringing up that broken laptop.

I often feel that my family is given many blessings which help us navigate and survive life with a multi-disabled child, while raising a bunch of other children as well. So many blessings, I suspect, that we probably aren’t even cognizant of them all.

I am, however, very aware of the priceless gift that Jack’s school, bus, teacher, principal, OT’s, SLP’s, and aides are.

And I am grateful.

Down and Up

Here are a few highlights (and lowlights) from our weekend:

Low: While at Stickers Doctor for our annual FluMist inoculations, preschool-aged son first punched baby, then spit a logie on baby’s head, all before melting into a writhing and steaming pile on the exam table when it was his turn for the nasal spritz.

High: On the bright side, we are now ready for flu season, including me. Thanks Stickers Doctor for inoculating moms too!

High: Watching the Thunder football game was uniquely pleasant, thanks to cool morning temperatures and my cute and energetic passel of Henry’s buddies. They were funny and rowdy and they kept the team spirit alive.

Low: The opposing team wiped the field with us, beginning with the touchdown that they scored five seconds after the game started. Who are these fifth-graders and where do they come from?

High: Perusing the Costco book table at my leisure to kick off our date night. Yes, please.

Low: Broken bones and a broken front tooth. Not us, but our darling nine-year-old neighbor who took a nasty spill on his bike and now has the wounds to prove it.

High: Our family was only mildly to moderately loud and distracting at church today. We might be getting a bit better. Only time will tell. Let’s just NOT ask the other families who sit in the back near us, okay?

High: Jack provided the nursery treats today and happily shared some super yummy NutriGrain bars. He also spent a few minutes, post singing time, cuddling with his kind teacher Liesel. She and the other leaders love Jack. He loves nursery. And I love all of them for being so sweet and giving Jack a place to fit in at church.

High: Bedtime commenced without drama. Weekends tire out our guys and that works for me.

August is the Cruelest Month–And it’s Over

School is back in session. Here are some signs that things are changing around here.

A) I am cooking again. Real food. Planned, prepared dinners. The fridge once again houses leftovers (yay for ready-made tasty lunches and second-day dinners!).

B) I agreed to host the neighborhood book club at my house. That I feel brave enough to invite a bunch of neighbors to my house, many who are new to the area and do not yet know me well, reveals that select moments in my life are now free from chaos (which, by the way, I’ve heard stands for Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome). Since I’m now able to snatch little bits of respite, I can conjure the time to whip up come cookies and clean up the place (sort of…).

C) I am reading again. Henry and I are working on Sounder, and I actually finished a memoir called Let It Go. When my life gets too busy for books, I inevitably feel like something vital is missing. Reading soothes and inspires me, and I’m relieved to have reclaimed the time for it. Feel free to recommend any fabulous reads. I’m on the prowl.

D) Jack is really peacefully happy. He is ecstatic when Doris and Missy drive the bus to our house each morning, and he is thrilled to see Miss Sue and many other helpers when he arrives at school. He relishes his mornings in the sensory motor room, and adores his spins on the adaptive bike. Class time is pretty great too, especially when they bring in power tools and adjust the desk heights, and such. And there is always the vacuum which lives next door in Miss Gay’s class, waiting to be visited. Structure has returned. Happy souls live here.

E) Football practice, chalk-talks, training, gear, and games have become all-consuming. This is a new adventure for a not-very-sporty couple like Jeff and me. We are, however, enjoying the excitement and happiness, discipline and responsibility it is cultivating in our eldest son. 

F) Daily behavior therapy is evolving into a sensory-rich, organic look at the myriad learning opportunities right here in Jack’s home, backyard, and neighborhood. It is less about puzzles and learning games at the table in the therapy room, and more about contributing through household tasks and socializing in the family room with little brother. Jack is eating it up. He loves to sweep and wipe off the table and practice talking while walking to the park. Change can be really, really good.

G) The scrub oak on the foothills are beginning to simmer with red and orange. The air carries a hint of fall. Charlie’s preschool starts tomorrow.  I. Love. Autumn.