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.