Archive for April, 2012

Our Side of the Street

Seems our house is the neighborhood hang-out, which I really like for the most part. Ours is the driveway where everyone congregates to play basketball. Ours is the yard where the mega sword fights take place. Ours is the front door where all the kids line up for their pick at Zippy’s arsenal of Nerf swords.

And since the weather has been so nice lately, the boys have been playing outside more and more. And something that’s made a big difference in their outside play: a bunch of the once-tiny boys on our street are now big enough that their parents are letting them come down the street to play with my boys. And at least a couple of them are surprisingly … ummmmm … noticeably … ummmm … strikingly … crazy and loud and a tad-bit frightening with a sword. You get the picture.

One day this week, Zippy was outside playing with a multitude of small boys, involved in a rigorous and serious Nerf sword battle. There was much screaming and wailing so I went outside to check it out. I am not yet used to the screams and wails of these newly-grown neighbor boys so I couldn’t tell if their screams were from pain, fear, anger, fury, or fun. Seems they were mostly screams of fun with just a tad bit of fury which is the tad-bit frightening part I mentioned earlier. I decided I had better stick around and keep an eye on these new, wild boys.

As I watched, the boys ran, screaming and wielding their swords, from one side of the street to the other. And back again. And back again. It was really a scene to take in.

Now, I should tell you that our street is not a busy one. Not many cars travel down our street. But some do. And oftentimes those cars travel faster than I wished they would.

Well, what I noticed was that the boys (including my 10 year old) would run across the street without ever glancing up to check for cars. On the rare occasion they did look up to check for cars, they did so in the middle of the street. We all know that if you wait until you are in the middle of the street to look for cars, chances are you will get squished by one before you decide to look up. This was not okay.

I called Zippy over to where I was standing. I told him no more crossing the street in the middle of a sword fight. “Either you choose that side of the street and stay there, or you choose our side of the street and you stay there.” I checked for understanding. It was clear that he heard and understood my meaning as he repeated it back to me.

And he ran off to play again, obviously choosing our side of the street as he hollered to all the boys to come over to our side and to stay there. And pretty quickly the crazy battle migrated over to our side of the street.

It wasn’t but a couple of minutes later that I spotted Zippy in the street. Flabbergasted, I called him over to me again.

“You are done. Go inside. You’re done playing,” I said, shaking my head.

“What did I do??” Zippy begged to know.

I looked at him with disbelief. “You were in the middle of the street!” I nearly yelled.

And then as serious and as genuine as he could be, he revealed to me exactly how little he had understood my instruction. He reminded me just how literal he is and how very careful I must be when giving him commands or instructions. “I wasn’t in the middle. I was on our side! You told me to stay on our side of the street!”

And I stopped.

He was right. As I replayed it in my mind, I could see him clearly on our half of the street. He carefully had stayed on our side of the street — not veering to the center of the road, but staying way to our side of the street. In the street, but on our sideof the street.

I laughed out loud and hugged him close to me. I re-explained what I meant by wanting him to stay on our side of the street. “I mean stay on the lawns on our side of the street. But no road. If your feet are in the street at all, you are disobeying. Do you understand?”

And I think this time he did. And he obeyed carefully.

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Safety Sleeper Travels!

Ok, you already know how much we LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Chloe’s bed, right? Well, we love it even more after having traveled with it.

Over spring break, we planned a little get-away for a few days. The day we left we had to leave very early in order to get to our destination by lunchtime since we were meeting my nephew for lunch. I set the alarm extra early so that Paul and Elliot would have time to take down Chloe’s Safety Sleeper bed and figure out how to get it back in its little travel bag.

Unfortunately, my alarm didn’t go off as planned so we got a 30 minute later start than planned. I was worried we’d leave later than we really needed to.

The amazing, surprising news? Before I even realized that Paul had gone to Chloe’s room to take her bed down… before I could even send Elliot back there to help him figure it out, Paul came out of Chloe’s room grinning and holding the bright pink bag that held all the parts to Chloe’s bed. It took Paul less than 6 minutes to take it apart and pack it up! Wow!!

And we were ready to hit the road … on time!

(In case you’re wondering, we made it in time to eat with my nephew! :))

That first night in the hotel, Paul set up Chloe’s bed right beside the window, where you’d put a roll-away if you ordered one. And he set up Chloe’s bed by himself in only 5 minutes! Voila! It was ready to go! It took longer to blow up the twin air mattress that we had purchased than to set up Chloe’s Safety Sleeper!

And it worked like a charm. In the past when we sleep in hotels, I push one of the beds against the wall and put Chloe next to the wall, me in the middle, and Elliot on the other side of me. And then I hardly sleep because I’m squished and claustrophobic between them — and because I can’t go to sleep too deeply for fear that Chloe will escape the bed and possibly the room! But with the Safety Sleeper, I slept more soundly, knowing that she was secure and safe in her bed!

We stayed two nights in that hotel, and then we traveled to Paul’s parents’ house for a night or two. Again, Paul set the bed up easily in their guestroom in under 5 minutes time! For the first time since Chloe was mobile, I was able to stay up with the grownups instead of laying with Chloe to make sure she stayed put.

What a way to travel!! Love it!

And I think Chloe did, too.

The Safety Sleeper for travel? Ummmm, YES!! 🙂

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*Disclaimer: Rose gave me a good deal on The Safety Sleeper and I’ll be credited a bit with every buyer who mentions me because I promised that I would talk about it on my blog. But as most of you know by now, I’m gonna tell it how it is! So you know I’m not joshing or exaggerating the truth. The truth is that the bed is incredible, and I have a feeling I’ll be singing its praises for a long, long time!  If you visit the website or purchase a bed, be sure to let Rose know that I sent you! 🙂

Painful Regret

I am sorry.

Those words seem so trite and so over-used. But they’re the only ones I know.

I am so sorry. I didn’t know.

If I’d have known, I promise I would’ve done a better job. I would have been more sensitive. More helpful.

I’m sorry, Keith.

I’m sorry. And I’m filled with regret that I wasn’t the one who made a difference in your school experience … in your life.

The emotion surprised me this morning, driving home from dropping off the kids at school. Someone on the radio said Keith or something that sounded like Keith, and immediately there he was as clear as crystal in my mind’s eye.

Keith. I have no idea what his last name was. I can’t even think how old he might be now. I haven’t thought about him in nearly 20 years. But I was his English teacher when he was in middle school. I didn’t have a relationship with Keith at all. I just graded his papers, signed his report card, and shook my head when I saw him struggling with his horrendously trashy locker. I grinned a grin motivated by sympathy and disgust when he walked down the hall under the weight of his backpack that held an amazing heap of disorganized chaos. He had no friends. He was just Keith … odd and alone in the world.

I didn’t know.

I write through tears this morning as I feel the deep regret of missed opportunities. I could’ve been his angel. I  could’ve been the one who stepped in to support him.

But I didn’t know.

I feel certain that Keith was on the autism spectrum. And I don’t think I knew anything about any spectrum back then.

I don’t even think he had an IEP (special education paperwork). And I know I had no idea what an IEP was or the information it contained.

Along with thinking about Keith this morning, I remembered painfully the portable building at that same school where I taught. I never knew what that building was for until my 2nd or 3rd year teaching there. But I eventually learned that the portable building housed the special ed kids who were bussed here from all over the rural county where I taught. It was a self-contained class — and none of us even knew they were there. Those students ate lunch in the portable by themselves. They went to the restroom while the rest of us were in class, I guess, because we never saw them, and we never knew they were there.

Picturing those students in the portable building today … their disabilities were no more “severe” than Chloe’s. Knowing that that portable building is the self-contained environment that Chloe would be placed in if we still lived there caused a deep pain in my chest. Those students were shut off and secluded from the rest of us. They were never given the chance.

And I didn’t know. I didn’t understand.

In a way, I guess Keith was the lucky one. He at least got to live life with the rest of the world. But he had no support. He had no one who understood his struggles. The adults he might have depended on — of which I was one — didn’t step up to support him. So he was alone … alongside the rest of the world.

It pains me to think about Keith. I partly think I can’t blame myself for what I didn’t know. But then again, I’m guessing that there were people 20 years ago who were trying to educate teachers — trying to educate me — and I didn’t listen. Or I didn’t hear. Or I didn’t go out seeking.

I’m sitting here wishing I could again forget about Keith. I’m trying to force his image out of my mind. But that wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t be fair to Keith. It’s only fair that I remember his face well. It’s only fair that I choose to learn from my experience — or my lack of experience with him. It is only fair that I am motivated by the memory of his face and by the memory of his struggle and by the memory of his lack of support.

So really. I’m sorry, Keith. I sincerely hope that you found someone to understand you. I truly hope that you found someone who could support you in the exact ways that you needed. I hope … I really hope that you are happy today. And that you are fulfilled today. That you are loved today. And that you are appreciated today. And I hope that you are heard today… And I hope you don’t remember me. And I hope you never saw the way I looked at you. I hope my face isn’t one you remember in the lineup of adults who coulda, shoulda tried to understand you.

But, Keith, in case you do remember me … know that I am changed. And know that I am striving to make this world a better place for you and for those who come after you. And know that I, today, am pretty convinced that while you sat in my classroom nearly 20 years ago silent,… that you probably could’ve taught me a wealth of content had I simply had ears to listen to you. And I hate that I missed out on knowing you.

Preparing for Easter

Easter Eggs Plastic Colors

The eggs are filled. New shirts are purchased for the boys. A dress is chosen for Chloe. And we’re almost ready.

I put candy in some of the eggs; and the others are filled with little toys. Elliot and Chloe have always especially loved the little toy-filled eggs — Chloe because she can’t eat the candy, and Elliot because he always liked playing with toys. You know, some kids are especially toy-players, and other kids just aren’t. Well, Elliot was always a toy-player. 🙂

It won’t surprise any of you, I’m guessing, that Zippy couldn’t care less about the toy-filled eggs and would gladly trade them all for more candy!

I haven’t filled the money eggs yet since I had no money. I meant to go to the bank today, but that didn’t get done. And I heard Paul gathering all the change to put in his pocket when he left this morning. Hmmmmm. Sabotaged.

We didn’t color eggs this year. I just couldn’t figure out where to put it in my week. No one has mentioned it yet. Hopefully they won’t mention it at all. Yes, hopefully Easter can come and go without mention or memory of coloring eggs. <crossing fingers!>

I had a talk with Chloe the other day about Easter. She’s known for a couple of weeks that Easter is coming, and we talk about it nearly everyday when she brings it up. But the other day, I typed out a conversation on the ipad, asking her a few questions. I asked her first of all if she wanted to look for eggs and put them in her basket, or would she rather just have her eggs waiting for her in her basket. It had occurred to me that maybe she didn’t enjoy walking around looking for eggs and dropping them one-by-one in her basket. She wants to find one egg and then play with it for a while before she gets the next one — and really she only looks for the next one because we are harping on her to get up and go find one. Well, since the Easter egg hunt is not for us, but for the kids, I decided to give her the choice. Not surprisingly, she chose not to walk around finding the eggs. So the plan will be to have her basket stocked with toy eggs for her to rummage through while the other kids hunt for their eggs. Fair enough, I think. I also asked her what she wants in her basket on Easter morning. Paul and I get little gifts to put in their baskets that are waiting for them when they wake up. She said she wants toys and stuffed animals. Again, no surprise.

Chloe saw a Party City commercial yesterday that had the cutest little Easter toys. She pointed them out to me and then mimicked picking them up and putting them over on the hearth, knowing that that is where I always put their Easter baskets on Easter morning. She was telling me that she wanted all of those cute Easter toys in her basket! Funny!

Easter eggs

Elliot asked me the other morning on the way to school if he should do the egg hunt this year or not. I resisted the urge to make a great big huge deal about the fact that my baby boy is growing up, and instead I chose to respond quite calmly to his question. I pretended to ponder the question and finally said that I wasn’t sure. He asked if his older cousin would be hunting for eggs. I told him I didn’t think she hunted eggs anymore. He needed to know how long ago she stopped. I quickly recalled that she is 3 years older than Elliot and replied that she probably hasn’t hunted eggs in 2 or 3 years. He thought for a moment and then decided that if he hunted eggs this year that it would probably be his last. And my heart shattered. I had not even braced myself to prepare for the fact that my children wouldn’t always hunt for eggs. <sigh> He ended the conversation saying that he would let me know what he decides. I have a feeling I have watched him hunt for eggs for the last time. <sniff>

Chloe tried on her Easter dress this evening. She. loved. it. She hasn’t felt well all day today, but that didn’t stop her from twirling and shaking her hips to make the dress flow just right. She stood and danced in front the mirror in her room for a few minutes. I think she thought she was pretty cute.

Tonight when I was filling the eggs, Zippy came into my room and saw me. “Are those Easter eggs?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied, sorta hiding them from his view.

“What kind of candy did you get?” he needed to know.

I just shrugged my shoulders, not daring to give away the secret.

“Well, when are you going to put our baskets out??” he asked with growing intensity.

“On Easter Sunday.”

Together we figured out what day it was and quickly did the math that he would, in fact, have to wait 2 days to get his basket.

He sighed. He looked forlorn. And then with a strange pirate-ly voice, he said much too seriously, “Well, then, I guess I can probably wait two stinkin’ days!” and dashed from the room.

And, of course, a Good Friday blog post wouldn’t be complete without remembering what today really and truly means — like long before the Easter bunny and chocolate candies, jelly beans, and Peeps. This is the day that Jesus was crucified for me and for you. This is the day that Jesus took all the blame and all the shame and all the punishment that we deserve. He silently died because He loves me and He loves you. That’s what today is. (And thankfully the story doesn’t end there! Sunday brings a whole new and wonderful celebration of his resurrection!)

Photo credits: Wikipedia

Fiesta Fun!

Over spring break, we travelled down to San Antonio again to enjoy Six Flags Fiesta Texas. We bought Six Flags passes again this year and had a couple of free nights in a hotel with our airline miles so it was “practically a free trip!”

We had a good time.

Chloe and I used the pass for people with disabilities to be able to go to the front of the line a couple of times. Most of the lines for rides she was interested in were pretty short though. The only line we waited in for any length of time was the Kiddie Coaster that she really wanted to ride and the line to buy a funnel cake.

Chloe started laughing the minute the Kiddie Coaster started, and she laughed the entire time. By the end of the ride, we were both just crying through our laughter. I’m sure we were a sight.

Chloe loved it, and I feel that again my opinion of Six Flags being disability friendly is validated. But we did visit with one family who complained vehemently about their treatment at Six Flags. I don’t know what their story was or what their specific complaints were. They had a young son who used a wheelchair. But we had a great experience.

The boys decided not to use Zippy’s pass to get to the front of the line. To clarify, Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington issues passes to go to the front of the line. Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio issues passes that enable a person with disabilities to make an appointment to come to the front of the line. For instance, if you show up at a roller coaster’s line, they will tell you to come back in 45 minutes, and you can be first in line. For some reason the boys didn’t appreciate that accommodation very much. So they chose to stand in long, very long lines for two days. Go figure.

Here are some photos of our time there:

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Her Voice

Delight!

Recently I also delighted in the sound of Chloe’s voice. Chloe is 10-years-old and is mostly nonverbal. When she vocalizes something, we notice. And we smile. And we’re proud. And we think it’s precious.

We were at a group Bible study recently at a friend’s house. Chloe was back in the little girls’ room playing toys. And several times she mimicked a talking toy. I heard her clap a couple of different times. She talked off and on, unaware that anyone was listening.

But I was listening. I heard it. And it made my heart glad. It was difficult to follow the adult conversation because I was so taken by the sound of Chloe’s voice in the next room.

I love that precious little girl. And anytime she is talking, it makes me stop and listen. And my heart is so filled with singing and smiling.

Keep it up, little one!

Delighting Today

As most of you know, I chose a word for 2012. A word to focus on. A word to sorta guide me. A word to remind me.

Delight.

My word for 2012 is Delight. It has been more of a challenge to Delight than I was expecting. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the daily struggles, big and small. It is so easy to get carried away with my to do list each day.

But today I delighted.

I went away for the weekend on a church women’s retreat. I was gone for 2 nights, and Paul took care of everything single-handedly. (Well except for a few hours when my sis-in-law had Zippy and Chloe.) Coming home, I was excited to see my family. Don’t know if you’ve noticed before, but I rather like my husband and my kids. They are my life, and they complete me. I adore them. I breathe easier when we’re all together and accounted for.

So coming home was a nice feeling of expectancy and reuniting.

Elliot was the first one I saw. He ran across the parking lot to greet me. He was genuinely pleased to see me and told me that he missed me.

Then I greeted Zippy who is always glad to see me. Even when I’m gone for only an hour, he often greets me as though I’ve been away for a week. I love that kid.

And then I said Hi to Chloe. When she heard my voice she looked up into my eyes for longer than she usually does, seeming to take it all in and making sure it really was me. It was a sweet look. And then I made her give me a sweet kiss.

And then I saw Paul and was genuinely glad to see him and to touch him.

I was home. And all was well. 🙂

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