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.