Friday, November 30, 2012

Variations on a Common Theme

I must confess that I was smiling as I watched. If it had been Andrew’s birthday, I would have scolded him for his behavior. I would have been apologetic.

But with David, everyone was amused as we watched him rip greedily into a package, tearing just enough of the wrapping paper to reveal whether or not it was the coveted Hot Wheels Color Shifters Car Wash playset and then casting it aside before moving on to another brightly wrapped package.

Until now, David has never really asked for anything for his birthday or Christmas. He has not shown much interest in new toys. He has been content to make do with what he already has.

I was the one who had suggested a new car wash for his birthday because, when I had asked him what he wanted for his birthday his response was almost always, “I want to drink milk on my birthday.”

And as I watched him, I couldn’t help but think of phrases like “indistinguishable from his peers” and “typical.”

David was being, well, normal and for the moment I was pleased.

But every so often I have to wonder if we all shouldn’t take a cue from David.

Why did it bother me that David was perfectly happy with all of the stuff he already had and didn’t really want—and certainly did not need—any new stuff?

There is so much talk in the world of autism about “the window” and pulling these kids through it, but sometimes I need to stop and look at the world from David’s vantage point because I have to admit that, at times, the view from where he is standing can be pretty spectacular.

Monday, November 5, 2012

There's a New Sheriff in Town

It is well documented that my soon to be 16-year-old nephew, Thomas, is a favorite jungle gym, tackling dummy, sparring partner and all around fun guy to soon to be 8-year old David.
You will please note that I did not mention authority figure on that list.
Saturday was Thomas' first night babysitting for us, a job normally reserved for his sister, Katie, who is almost halfway through her junior year of college at a school located approximately 500 miles from us which has left us, as of late, sitterless.
Until Saturday.
Michael and I decided to try a neighborhood restaurant.  I told David that we were going to dinner and would be back in time for bath and bedtime and that he was to stay with Thomas and Andrew.
"And ANNIE?" he inquired, wondering if my sister would be coming over, as well.  Thomas noted the somewhat anxious look on David's face.
I am happy to report that Michael and I had a wonderful, leisurely dinner and all survived the less than 90 minutes that we were gone.  Thomas has agreed to babysit again.  Andrew is pleased he made a few dollars for "helping" although the word on the street is that he mainly "helped" to wind David up.
And David, poor confused David learned a important lesson.  Sometimes Thomas is in charge and if he tells you that he will take away the SpongeBob ball if you throw it one more time AND you proceed to throw it one more time, you just may find yourself without the SpongeBob ball.
A valuable lesson, indeed.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sympathetic Words

Just about the time that I begin to think I have one too many things on my plate, I do something really talented like fling myself out my front door and onto the concrete of the porch.

I am not even sure how it happened, but I was carrying a window screen that was dusty and needed to be cleaned.  The boys were playing basketball on the driveway, so I must have looked up at precisely the wrong time.
I do remember thinking SHE’S GOING DOWN and, just before I hit the concrete, I managed to do a quick scan to see how many neighbors were about to witness the spectacle. (Please do not even ask why I think of myself in the third person when I am about to do something really embarrassing, but I do.)
I landed right in the middle of the potted mum plants, and Andrew and David came running.
I tried to quickly survey the situation--a burnish on my right palm, a skinned knee, and a big goose egg had already formed on the outside of my twisted left ankle.
The boys came running and I started to cry when I realized that I wasn’t sure if I could get up without help.
Andrew said, “I’ll go get Dad.”
And David, after a moment of hesitation, announced “I go get a tissue.”
Have you ever heard such beautiful words?  I appreciate that Andrew ran quickly to get help, correctly surmising that Michael would be the best suited to hoist me up off of the front porch.
But, today I am thankful that David can be sympathetic when I am hurt.  He pays attention to how I am feeling and tries to help, in his own way.  Not all kids with autism can do that.
I will be fine.  The doctor said nothing is broken.
And then called back to say maybe something is just a little bit broken.
But it will heal with time.
I am sorry to report that the mums, however, did not survive the ordeal.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Getting my Exercise

Somehow, when I click the "publish" button, I never imagine that it will be days, weeks, or in some cases months before I publish another post.
For me, it seems that writing is like exercising or having a healthy diet. I feel better when I do it, but if I get out of the habit, it is easy to put it off just another day. I sometimes wonder what difference it really makes if I ever type another word to send out into cyberspace.
I have been doing a little bit of writing, just the old fashioned way with a pencil and paper.
I have been taking pictures--with my phone because I returned the beautiful Canon digital SLR camera that I had borrowed for a while, and when David doesn't erase my pictures to make room for his videos of assorted car washes and interstate overpasses, I sometimes even get a chance to download the pictures onto my computer.
And, although I may not have put it out there for all the world (or my seven faithful readers) to see, I have been trying to take some time each day to think of something for which I am thankful, a habit that I have tried to instill in the boys as I inquire about their day.
It is a practice that comes naturally to David. He continually finds things that make him happy and I simply need to take a lesson, to slow down and pay attention like he does and try not to be annoyed as I crunch a leaf into a million pieces reaching for my keys in my purse, the very same perfect red leaf that David retrieved and shoved into my purse just yesterday on the way into swimming lessons that had caught his attention as it scratched across the sidewalk in the wind.
I will be back tomorrow. And, I will try to spend the month of Thanksgiving, well, giving thanks and being content--waiting, watching, listening.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Published Again

I am, once again, a published author.
But this time, there will be no mention on the New York Times list of notable books.  There will be no royalty checks.
Oh wait; I didn’t have those things last time, either.
And since I actually served as ghostwriter, I will not even receive credit as the author, which is a shame really, because the prose is gripping—if I do say so myself—as evidenced by the following opening lines: 

Hi.  My name is David and I am so happy to be in class with you this year.  I know that we will have a lot of fun together.  I am looking forward to getting to know you.  I want to tell you a little bit about myself.

I know—it rivals opening lines like 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.

Obviously, I am being somewhat sarcastic, which I suppose is only to mask the fact that I somehow feel as if this book is one of the most important things I have written.

On Tuesday, all of David’s classmates received copies of my newest creation, All About David, to take home and read with their parents.

Here is the SparkNotes version.  All kids have things in common with each other and things that are different.  David likes to swim and play video games; he likes to watch SpongeBob and loves the color red, just like many of his classmates.  And, David has autism, which means that he had a difficult time learning to talk and can be hard to understand, that he sometimes thinks noises are too loud and may wear headphones, or that he might want to have a break for a minute on the playground.  But, like all kids, David wants to have friends.

I wrote the book from David’s perspective, which is somewhat amusing because David refuses to read it.  Or have it read to him.  Or really even to lay eyes on it to look at the eight pictures which were lovingly chosen, painstakingly inserted into the text before I even considered the fact that eight full color pictures would make printing this little masterpiece somewhat pricey.

That is why I hand-delivered the books to school on Monday afternoon rather than send them with David because I was afraid that they might end up in the restroom garbage can.

Next year, I hope to write a new and improved second grade version.  Maybe by then, David will actually be ready to read it. 

But if not, that is alright because, although I wrote this book about David, I did not actually write it for him.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Beautiful Sunset

The next morning, the meteorologist tried to explain why it had been such a beautiful sunset.

And I guess I shouldn't say that he "tried" to explain, as I am sure he did explain it thoroughly.

But my enjoyment of that sunset had really nothing to do with the light reflecting off of the cirrus clouds and everything to do with the fact that we were driving home from the Open House at David's school and I was euphoric.

After David had such a difficult time at the Back to School Night, I almost skipped the Open House altogether.  It would have been easier.

But with David, as with most kids, easier often does not mean better.

So, I strategized.  I marked David’s monthly calendar, which hangs inside the front door.  We also changed tactics.

Instead of trying to be the first to arrive, or the “get it over with” method, we opted instead to try to arrive at the very last minute, the “don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out” approach.

I had hoped that by arriving later there would be fewer people.  Fewer people translates to less noise, which would be ever so nicely muffled by David’s favorite red JVC headphones, which he had requested to bring along.  He had also requested to bring along big brother, Andrew.

We arrived at school, nabbed a prime parking space (an added side benefit of waiting) and all collectively held our breath as we opened our car doors to see if David would open his and follow us into the school.

And then we watched in amazement as David led the way, headphones on, marching—no, strutting into the school like he owned the place.

I did not have to try to cajole him into the school.  There were no last minute bribes, which is good because having already promised a vanilla ice cream cone on the way home and a trip over the new favorite overpass—you know the one that crosses the water (creek) and the train tracks—I really had nothing else to offer.

First, he took us to his special ed classroom.  And then he took us to his First Grade classroom.  He showed Andrew his desk and his locker.  With prompting, he introduced all of us to his teacher, even if he did stumble a bit by introducing me as “Mrs. Mom-mom.”

He showed us the “Get to Know You” poster that he had made.  You know, favorite color—red.  Favorite movie—SpongeBob Squarepants.  What do I want to be when I grow up—a teacher.

Wait, that is a new one.  A teacher.

How appropriate.  Because for me, really for all of us, David already is.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Crying over Broken Dishes

When I opened the door to the upper cabinet, it took a split second for me to register the crash that followed.  I was startled, of course, and started examining my hands and arms to see if there were more than just a few teeny cuts from the resulting shards of glass.

Earlier this summer I had bought a large, low, white porcelain bowl to hold tomatoes from our garden on the counter until we had a chance use them.  (And please let me pause here for just a moment because I really like the sound of the words “tomatoes from our garden” and the implication that, yes, this year my vegetable garden was more than just a fleeting thought.)

I had been trying to find a place to store this new bowl, now a totally unnecessary task because the square Pyrex baking dish and oval serving dish that took the leap from the second shelf had landed on top of the new bowl, shattering everything.

Later, as I was relaying the story to my Mom on the phone, I started to cry.  The oval dish had been a wedding gift from some family friends.  It was hand-painted and they had carried it back from a trip to Wales.  I used it often, especially when I was entertaining as it was the perfect shape for serving roasted asparagus, one of Michael’s absolute favorites.

David happened to walk into the room and saw me crying, so I cut short the conversation with my mother.  “Mom-mom, why you cry?” he asked me almost immediately.

“Because I am sad, David,” I replied, not even attempting to explain my sentimental attachment to a serving dish.  “Are you ever sad?” I added.

And with that simple question, it was like watching the dark clouds roll in with a fast moving spring thunderstorm.  David’s whole countenance changed as he closed his eyes and big tears came rolling down his checks.  It was almost as if my sadness had passed through him.

Of course as David’s Mom, I never like to see him cry.

But I must admit, the fact that David has that capacity—to see me sad, to feel my sadness and take it as his own—that is something a therapist noticed in David at a very young age and apparently is a skill that is nearly impossible to teach a child with autism and for that, I am extremely grateful.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Road to Recovery

I am finally getting over my illness.
I am not talking about the third week of school nastiness that the boys always bring home, this year appearing in the form of a fever/cough/cold combination that wipes you out for a couple of days.  I am still battling the tail end of that one.
Instead, I am happy to report that I have FINALLY recovered from what I will refer to as DDD, or diarrheal dialogue disorder.  I have not yet sought professional help for my disorder, which often goes undetected.  It was David who made me realize that I was suffering in the first place.
Strike that.  Actually, I felt fine and it was David who was suffering.
When David gets nervous as he was the first two weeks of school, he gets very quiet.
Apparently, I have the opposite problem.
All my maternal, protective instincts these first weeks of school have come spilling, pouring, tumbling out in the form of reassurances, questions, and then answers and then more questions about David's day as we wait each morning for the bus.
You are going to have a great day at school today.  Do you know what specials you have today?  You must not have PE because you had PE yesterday.  Could it be library day today? Is it check-out day?  Who do you sit next to in the lunch room? Doyoulikeridingthebus?Yourbusdriverisnice,isn'the?OhlookIseeabutterflydoyouseethebutterflytoowhatdoyouwanttodowhenyougethomefromschooldontforgettogiveyournotebookbacktotheteacher.

Keep in mind that not too long ago, David was a non-verbal child.  I wasn't even really expecting him to answer any of questions; I simply felt better having asked them.

But, I did not consider how my verbal assault was making David feel.

And David, poor David actually has that talent that so many of us grown people lack--the ability to be still.  He wanted to be still, to be quiet and just sit.

Unlike me, David does not always feel it necessary to fill time--talking, or reading, or checking e-mail and Facebook while sipping a cup of coffee or all of the above at the same time.  He was perfectly happy to wait and maybe listen to the bird in the oak tree in the front yard, but then there is this woman (yours truly) who simply would not shut up.

Toward the end of the first week of school, we were waiting for the bus.  I was standing at the screen door, and David was sitting on the staircase, head down.  And then, without lifting his head from the carpet of the stairs, his raised his eyes to meet mine, lifted his right hand, palm out and said to me in a barely audible whisper, "stop talking Mom-mom.”

I guess the first step is recognizing that you have a problem.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Butterfly Moment

A few minutes ago, I watched as David stretched up onto his tiptoes and took a big slurpy drink straight from the faucet at the kitchen sink, a scene that is repeated countless times across the country on a hot, late summer day.

It was a first for David, a milestone--like so many others--that does not appear on the pediatrician's checklist. One that I did not even realize we had missed.

Until one day, from the corner of my eye, I notice. Hey, David just opened the package by himself. Or, asked how I was feeling. Or, took a drink straight from the tap.

All minuscule milestones to remind me that progress often comes in small packages.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

School Discipline

Although I cannot specifically find the reference in the 2012-2013 Elementary Student Code of Conduct that prohibits a student from borrowing exactly three hash browns from another student’s lunch tray in order to line them up vertically in a perfect pretend stoplight, I am sure it is in there somewhere.

I almost feel bad making light of the situation, because when David came home from school on Monday, I knew immediately that something was wrong.  And, although David has made such great strides in communication the past few months that he eventually manages to tell us what is wrong, my mind can fill those intervening minutes—approximately 47 in this case—with horrible images of what might have happened to cause such distress, that when enough details of the Great Hash Brown Caper of 2012 began to emerge, I am sure I could not suppress my smile.

In fact, I may have even been gleeful.  Not that I am pleased my son had to be reminded that you should not take food from someone else’s plate (allegedly).  But to me the infraction seemed so minor—a first grade misstep that compares to Andrew learning the valuable lunchroom lesson that it does not matter who started the game of footsie under the table, if the Assistant Principal sees you “kick” the cute little girl sitting across from you, there will be consequences.

I know that we live in a world where we must take school discipline very seriously.  Gone are the days where you can bite the boy in front of you on the bottom because he is holding up the line at the slide and, rather than be suspended, actually be advanced a grade—another true first grade story taken from family lore.

These days, I know that I cannot send a pair of safety scissors to school in David’s lunch to facilitate opening the yogurt stick because it could be considered a weapon.  I understand that I cannot have someone run to pick him up who is not already listed on the approved emergency contact form submitted at the beginning of the year—both sad statements about our society, but I appreciate any efforts to keep students safe.

So, I will remind David that we do not take food off of someone else’s plate, even to make a beloved hash brown stoplight.

But please forgive me if I am smiling while I do it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Second Day

Charles Dickens published most of his novels as serial publications, in weekly or monthly installments.

When I selected the name for yesterday’s post, “The First Day,” I was being somewhat lazy and in no way intended to imply that I would write a post called "The Second Day.”  And when I hit the “publish” button at 4:07 p.m. I really had made the mistake of breathing an apparently premature sigh of relief a full two hours after the sigh of relief that I had breathed just the day before—previously referred to as “The First Day.”

Yesterday, the call did not come until 4:25 p.m. as I was sitting by the window of my office, waiting for what I naively believed to be the imminent arrival of the bus.

Well, David was still sitting in the office at school.  The bus was missing in action.  So, I made my second mad dash in as many days to rescue my now understandably nervous boy.

I do believe that this will be the final installment of David’s back to school story, but I cannot make any promises.  Dickens managed to stretch David Copperfield to last a year and a half.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The First Day

I need to remember to add saltine crackers to the school supply list.

Some families have really fun first day of school traditions—maybe they make a special breakfast or have an ice cream cone on the way home.  Some parents take photos of their kids holding a sign to commemorate the first day in each grade, or mark their child’s height inside a door frame.

But our family?  Well, we have vomit.

Andrew started the tradition by getting the stomach flu just in time for his first day of fourth grade.  Fortunately, that has been the only time he has felt it necessary to participate.

Apparently, David has recently decided to continue the tradition by throwing up on the first day of summer school and then he gave an encore performance yesterday, the first day of first grade.

Interestingly, he manages to make it almost the whole way through the day and just about the time that I am glancing at the clock, breathing a sigh of relief, thinking that we can put the first day behind us, I get the call—the fated call that always begins with the words, “Hello, is this David’s Mom?”

I have to give the kid credit, however, because he managed to perfect his technique to avoid his brand new, Stride Rite tennis shoes, the very same shoes we have worked so hard to get him to wear in the first place.

So yesterday, I made a mad dash to David’s school to pick up my not really sick child.  And instead of enjoying an after school popsicle on the front porch, we had an afternoon filled with reenactments of the disturbing event, punctuated with very few words because David really was too upset to talk about it.  Choke…sick…floor…tummy.

I have been looking forward to the first day of school since, if I am being honest, the last day of school last year.  But, when you take David’s nervous stomach and combine with one sulky seventh grader, then add a husband’s late work meeting, plus a missing SpongeBob lunch bag and shake, you get a recipe for an early happy hour at my house.

Hey, it’s always five o’clock somewhere, right?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Photographing Bridge Ten

David had been asking for a picture of “bridge ten,” his favorite interstate overpass.  Yes, he has a favorite interstate overpass.  Doesn’t everyone?

So last weekend, Michael grabbed the camera and decided to take David for a drive to try to get the desired photo.  David insisted on taking my iPhone so that he could videotape the whole drive in a 14 minute long video documentary that I like to call The Making of the Money Shot: Snapping Perfect Infrastructure Photos without Alerting Homeland Security.

I have posted my favorite portion of that video below.  It makes me laugh every time.  I do not intend to make you watch the entire 14 minutes, only 40 seconds.  In just over 200 posts, this is my first video link, so I must think it’s good.  Make sure your volume is turned up.

This clip is taken from that segment where Michael has just pulled off of the interstate to find the perfect vantage point to take the snapshot.  Please take note of the yellow sign that is almost out of the frame as the video begins.  David certainly did.

I like that way David’s speech comes slowly, haltingly at first as if he is really trying to trust Michael, to believe that he knows what he is doing, but then his better judgment intervenes.  “I…thinking…TURN AROUND!”

At least it is somewhat reassuring to know that David is not solely critical of my driving.

The infamous Bridge 10.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Back to School...Almost

I am not usually embarrassed by David.  It’s not that he doesn’t do embarrassing things—what kid doesn’t?—but I try not to let it bother me.  I have gotten to the age where I don’t care what other people think.  (Did that sound convincing?)

But last night was a different story.

We took David to “back to school night.”  And by “took,” I mean we literally dragged him into the building.  He wasn’t exactly kicking and screaming, but it was clear that he was not happy about being there.  The “we” of course was Michael and me, and if Michael hadn’t been with me I truly believe I would still be in the car trying to coax David inside, not being able to physically move him anymore if he does not want to be moved.

David was upset because school does not start until Monday the 20th and it very clearly is not Monday the 20th.  But still, we are making him work, getting him used to his new shoes and backpack, practicing the bus numbers, talking about his new teacher and classroom.  Each time we mention school, David will lead us to the giant calendar that hangs inside our front door and, with a wide motion, sweep his arm across a row (the week of the 13th—this week) and proclaim, “I have ONE MORE WEEK!”

So there we were, in the door of his classroom, one at each side like (out of shape and sweaty) secret service agents, and we had to push him inside—in front of the other parents, in front of the other kids, in full view of his new teacher and, at the time, I was embarrassed.

But now, I realize that what I was feeling was not really embarrassment, but sadness.

I am sorry that this encounter is the first thing that they will know about David—that they did not get to see his engaging smile, or hear him giggle.  I am sad that they did not see the really great kid that I see, the kid that he is most of the time.  I am truly upset that they will never know how hard he works or how difficult some things are for him, things that come so easily for other kids.

Last year, David had friends.  Last year, David got invited to birthday parties.  Last year, David had little girls, calling for his attention in the hallway.  Last year, David had admirers and brought home notes in his backpack.

But I know that, at some point, kids will become less forgiving and that quirky will no longer be considered cute, just plain old quirky.

On the walk out of the building, which incidentally was much easier than the one into the building, I ran into a friend.  She had seen our struggle earlier and asked with a smile if she was going to go home and read about it later on my blog.  I answered that it was too soon.  I couldn’t write about it, yet, because I did not yet see the humor in it.

And I guess I still don’t exactly find it funny, but the passage of 24 hours has brought some perspective.

What difference did it really make?

Seriously, what difference did “back to school night” really make?  Twenty five students in the classroom divided by a one hour school visitation equals less than three minutes with the teacher, and boy did David make a splash with his three minutes.

To continue the swimming imagery for a moment, it is like the swimmer who qualifies in the last spot of the prelims and goes on the win the gold medal.  To date, David has always been able to rally when it counts and, fingers crossed, Monday will go swimmingly well.

And, as for the other kids, I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A View from the Garden

The boys start school in less than one week, on the 20th.  I work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  For those of you doing the math that means, this week I had only two more real days of summer—two more days to sleep in, without setting the alarm.

So, what time did you suppose David decided to get up yesterday—Tuesday—a non-work day?  He first appeared in my room at 5:24 a.m.  We cuddled for a few minutes and then he headed downstairs.

Michael was just on his way out the door for work, but I could hear him take David to the bathroom and offer him something to drink, so I did not hurry down the stairs.

I did not hurry down the stairs until I heard that sound.  You know the sound, the one that registers in a Mom's subconscious as a sound she should not be hearing and is certainly more effective than an alarm clock.

I had heard Michael pull the car out of the garage, so I knew that he had gone to work.  It was then that I heard the legs of a kitchen chair passing over the seams between the wooden planks in the floor.  David was dragging a chair across the kitchen to reach something.

So, my day began shortly after 5:30 a.m. and since David had me up, I decided to make him work.

As much as I am looking forward to the boys being back in school, and as much as David enjoys the routine of school, it takes time for the routine to become routine.  There are seemingly countless hurdles to be cleared with the start of the new school year—a different bus and driver, a new classroom and teacher, a dramatically different SpongeBob backpack from last year's SpongeBob backpack and, perhaps most distressingly, new sneakers.

Last weekend, Michael and I took David to the Stride Rite store to buy him new shoes and yes, it really does take two people to go shoe shopping with David.  We actually managed to get the left shoe on him so that the store owner could check the fit, but David absolutely refused to try on the right shoe.

By now, we're certainly familiar with David's reluctance to wear new shoes (or clothes, or non-red items, coats, hats and outerwear) and the key is to wait until David wants to participate in what would be known in the world of autism as a "highly preferred activity" and then refuse to let him until he wears the new item.  It sounds somewhat cruel, but it works.

And in this case, David and I happen to share a "highly preferred activity," the botanical garden.  After weeks and weeks with temperatures in the 90's and 100's, we have had a break in the weather so I decided a trip to the garden was in order and I would make use of my two extra hours, the hours that I had planned to be sleeping.

With very little hesitation, David let me put his new shoes on with the promise of a trip to the garden.

I enjoyed the sunshine and feeling the breeze on my face.

The lush, green flowers and plants.  Can you imagine the water bill?

The architectural elements.

The sculptures, the artwork.

And watching David have fun.

And while I am sure that David enjoyed these things, there are also the green doors.

And gates big, and gates little.

And the circles tumbling down the hillside.

And sprinklers, oh so many sprinklers.

But perhaps my most favorite sight, NEW SNEAKERS.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Security Measures

It takes David a long time to warm up to new people.

It takes David an even longer time to accept new kids.

And even after David has decided that maybe, just maybe he can tolerate having a new friend around, the fact that David may lock the door to the house as his friend is walking up the sidewalk, or that he isn't too excited about sharing anything—even space in the same room—or that may refuse to speak or make eye contact could be misconstrued to mean that David would really rather just play by himself.

We had company last weekend—cousins who unfortunately we only get to see about once a year.  They have a son just a little bit older than David.  He was not staying with us, but we spent a great deal of time together over the course of four days.  It took a while, but finally David started to acknowledge his presence.  They played some rudimentary football.  They played a chasing game.  David even allowed him a few minutes playing one of his beloved PlayStation games while jumping on David's trampoline.  Let me tell you that this is a big step.

And then, the visit was over and they went home—just when David was beginning to make progress.  I need to have David's "friends" over more often, but it is somewhat difficult to issue the invitation and then explain to the other Mom that it will probably take around six play dates before David will pay any attention to her child.

Plus there is an added issue.  That cord, which disappears into the storage ottoman, is attached to the PlayStation controller which, since our new friend's visit, gets securely stowed away each time David leaves the house.

David seems to have realized that he let his guard down and has instituted some additional security measures.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gaga for Goggles

On Tuesday, we went to the “pool with a beach” and before you quickly scroll down, looking for the pictures of sandy white beaches, puffy clouds and gleaming sun—hold on.

We use the term “beach” pretty liberally.  In our part of the country, beaches are non-existent, but the health club that we belong to has both an indoor and an outdoor pool.  David uses the term “pool with a beach” to make the distinction, the outdoor pool.

David loves swimming, but is not so enamored with getting the chlorinated water in his eyes.  Consequently, although his swimming is progressing, his strokes are hampered by the fact that he frequently stops to rub his eyes.

To this point, all attempts to get David to wear goggles have been unsuccessful.  Until Tuesday.

On Tuesday, for whatever reason, David let me slip a pair of goggles over his eyes.  He dunked his head into the water, but ripped the goggles back over his head before he had even realized.  He then immediately asked me to put them back on.

I could tell by the smile on his face that he finally understood.  And when his eyes met mine, I could tell by his expression that he was acknowledging that I had been right.

Periodically with David, I know we make a connection that goes beyond words, because for worse or sometimes for better, David does not always rely on words the same way the rest of us do.  And Tuesday was one of those moments.  We were in sync, without uttering a single word.  He knew it.  And I knew it.

David spent the rest of the swim, face down in the water, eyes open, paddling away.

I am sorry to tell you that I do not have a picture from that day of David with hair dripping, SpongeBob swimsuit and bright blue goggles framing his even brighter blue eyes.

I could make the excuse that David is somewhat camera shy (true enough), or that he realizes that goggles can make people look goofy (maybe), but the real reason is that David had already raced off with my phone to take his own pictures of his favorite feature at the beach.

You see, much to David’s delight, our “beach” comes equipped with an elevator.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fashion by SpongeBob

Yesterday, I took David to Target.

For those of you who may not have a child who feels compelled to open every single door in the frozen food aisle, or who must wait in the airlock between the two sets of automatic doors until both are closed for at least five seconds before proceeding into the store, or who may very occasionally attempt to shoplift a garden cart, you probably do not understand the weight that simple sentence carries.

I took David to Target and I lived to tell the tale.

During the break between summer school and the start of first grade, we have been trying to take David places out of his comfort zone and Target certainly fits into that category.  Plus, I had quite a bit of shopping to do—a two column list which, in my compulsive list making code means both non-food and food items.  This time I had classified my list—things I absolutely had to buy now and things that could wait if David needed to leave before we were finished.

David usually tries to sprint through the store at warp speed, while I run along behind, red-faced and out of breath, grabbing things off the shelves and flinging them into the cart.  So, I decided to buy him some popcorn to slow him down a tad—oh, and a mocha for me to speed me up.

But, this time David decided he was going to push the cart and I was not allowed to have my hands anywhere near it.  And he made the announcement early. "I pushing cart SLOOOWLY."

I am happy to report that we made it through the entire list, even though it may have been at a snail's pace.  David did see through my subterfuge, however, when I coaxed him into the school supply aisle under the guise of looking at some notebooks for Andrew.  He got a little nervous when he saw me pick up a SpongeBob backpack that closely resembles last year's SpongeBob backpack.

The old

The new.  SpongeBob is older, wiser and apparently in need of bifocals.

David does not want a new backpack, even though his old one is dirty from a year of being thrown on the floor of the school bus.  And when I paused to pick up a matching SpongeBob lunch bag, David decided he'd had enough and announced loudly, "I backing it up!"  He proceeded to back the cart out of the aisle while imitating the noise a truck makes in reverse, "BEEP...BEEP...BEEP."

I threw the new backpack and lunch bag into the cart, insisting that Andrew probably wants them for seventh grade.

They have been sitting in the corner of my family room ever since and, in a daring moment of commitment, I have removed the tags.  In two weeks, someone will be sporting new SpongeBob gear.

Do you think that backpack might be big enough to hold my laptap?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Making of an Olympian

We have Olympics fever at our house.  Well, not really.  While I have enjoyed watching some of the events, I actually am more entertained by watching David as he watches the events.

I assumed that David would enjoy the swimming coverage, but I have been surprised by some of the other sports that have taken his fancy like water polo, for instance.  I guess I should not be too surprised because there is a fair amount of swimming, combined with a countdown clock—one of David's absolutely favorite things.

The sport that David has found the most fascinating, however, is a sport that I didn't even know existed, synchronized diving.

And, joining countless children around the world who are watching the coverage, apparently David is dreaming of someday making his own Olympic ambitions come true.

I'll admit it is somewhat hard on the furniture, but I still give this dive a 10.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Electrical Circuitry for Dummies

I was at home, really I was. David had been in and out of the front yard, "watering the tree," which is his code for messing around with the hose. It is a frequent activity at our house, during which time I hide from the neighbors. I know that we are in the middle of a drought. I know that David is wasting huge amounts of water, but I invite anyone to try to explain that to David.

I was relieved when David came back into the house. A few minutes later, I heard the telltale beep…beep…beep of the alarm system that indicates a door has been opened, but since I was sitting in my office, I knew he had not gone back into the front yard.

Good. He is in the backyard, where excessive water usage is less visible to the whole world. I will go check on him in a minute.

Famous last words. I will go check on him in a minute.

I did not need to check on David. He found me and asked me to get him a glass of milk a few minutes later. 

It really couldn't have been more than five minutes and when I went to deliver that milk this is what I saw.

David once let his iPad battery get so low that it shut off and needed to charge before it would power up again. Consequently, he is mildly obsessed with making sure that all the electronic devices that he is using—sometimes three at the same time—are appropriately plugged in and charging. 

And when he decided to watch his SpongeBob movie, simultaneously with the video recorded on my iPhone of crossing over the interstate bridges all while gazing at his favorite picture of a telephone pole on the iPad in—wait for it—my CAR, parked in the garage on a day when the mercury is supposed to reach 100 degrees, apparently David's concern was to find power for everything. Could I make this stuff up?

Sooooo, he plugged all of his devices into a heavy duty outdoor extension cord that we use for Christmas decorations. That, in turn, was plugged into what he calls the "circle charger," which is an adapter that turns a car cigarette lighter into an outlet. The circle charger was, in fact, plugged into the cigarette lighter and (deep breath here) the keys were in the ignition turned, David was quick to tell me, JUST ONE CLICK, which provided the required power.

Incidentally, the large landscaping rock on the back seat of the car, recently stolen from my parents' backyard, was just for ambiance and did not play any functional role in the electrical circuitry.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Fable of David and the Restaurant

Last night, we went out to dinner. At a restaurant. With David.

It has been literally months since we tried to take David to a restaurant.

Sometimes, he does alright, but much of the time, it is frustrating for us and for him.

David does not really like to eat, so for him there is no attraction in waiting for the food to arrive.

And there are distractions—oh so many distractions.

A few months ago, we tried to meet my parents for breakfast one weekend morning. We picked a restaurant that we knew would be pretty noisy, so David would not be too disruptive to the other diners, and that had the capacity to deliver a plate full of crispy "de-witch-ous" bacon nearly simultaneously to David's rear end settling into the chair.

We could not even get David to go into the restaurant. He wanted, instead, to sit on the bench in the waiting area and no amount of coaxing could convince him to walk (willingly) to the table.

Maybe, it was too noisy. Maybe David was too tired. Maybe we should have called ahead and had the bacon waiting for us so that we could lead him like a rabbit with a carrot into the restaurant.

As we walked back out to the car, the problem became apparent. Located just across the street from the restaurant was a car wash, the exit perfectly positioned so that the cars in the final wash were visible from the bench of the waiting area, but would not have been visible from any of the tables.

After a quick huddle, we decided not to be deterred. We would go to a local grocery store and see if David would tolerate eating in their little cafe and if not, we would simply buy the ingredients, take them back to my parents' house and cook breakfast for ourselves. 

Imagine my surprise as we pulled into the store parking lot.

There it was. In full view. Another carwash. And, my best attempt at shielding, blocking, distracting and finally hustling David into the store did not work. David spied the sign almost immediately. 

I am happy to report that all was not lost, however. The restaurant had a full wall of windows, so David was willing to sit, and he quickly lost interest because the wash happened to be situated in such a way that even David decided looking at the brick wall was not all that thrilling.

So, I suppose you could call that experience a semi-success, but I hope (400 words in and I will try finally to make a point) that you can see sometimes it just seems like trouble. Too much trouble.

David, according to all printed reports, had a successful visit to a Mexican restaurant on the last day of his teacher training last week so we decided to take advantage of it and make a return visit to the restaurant while David still remembered having a good experience there.

This particular restaurant is part of a local chain. We drove past four restaurants—5 miles, 9 miles, 11 and 12 miles away from our house. Yes, we drove more than twenty miles each way or an hour total in the car so that we could visit not just ANY Romeo's Mexican Food and Pizza, but the VERY SAME Romeo's Mexican Food and Pizza that David had visited previously because it is, after all, "nacho typical restaurant."

Well, on a scale of one to ten with one being horrendous and ten being a relaxing meal, I would have to rate the experience a six which is pretty good. David did not do anything that would have disturbed those eating around us, but we did have to make a few trips to the entrance to watch the doors open and close. 

Oh, and David marched off toward the kitchen in search of his basket of fries when the waitress brought everyone else's food to the table except David's. Why do they do that?

For those of you paying attention you can probably guess. But, for the rest of you I will make like Aesop and spell it out for you.

The moral of the story is—if you order a margarita in an attempt to calm your nerves, don't get it blended because you absolutely cannot drink it fast enough to get the calming effect before brain freeze sets in.