Sunday, November 30, 2008


We spent our Thanksgiving long weekend in a few locations. We packed everyone up on Wednesday and went to my cousins cabin north of here. Todd was not feeling well, at all, and I did ask if we should abort the mission. He is NOT a whiny sick person at all, and he said he would be fine. He just had a cold. Let's go. So off we went to the cabin. There is no TV there, although we bring a little portable DVD player for Daniel. Some of the time he takes it to the room Todd and I sleep in and watches videos to get away from the craziness. That being 3 boys ages, 8, 7, and 6. It gets loud. But we have visited here many times and our family loves going and spending time with my cousin's family. We have an easy relationship together.

We put together an entire Thanksgiving feast together on Turkey day. It was sometime during that afternoon that I noticed Todd was going the wrong way in his sickness. Instead of bouncing back as we thought, he looked downright frightening. Most parents know that look from their kids, but there was no denying it. He had pink eye and a sinus infection. So it's Thanksgiving day we are in a cabin FAR off the beaten path in a house with 4 kids and 4 adults. This cannot end well! Daniel told him that his eyes were "red with menace!" This is from "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas", but a very appropriate use of the phrase!

We ate our dinner and Beck had some drops from a previous pink eye episode, which in and of itself was enough to be thankful for!! How would she have those with her? During dinner we all talked about what we were thankful for. Each other was a big one, and so was Earth. Each kid seemed to be very thankful for our planet and nature. You can appreciate it more out there amongst it all! They got to go sledding, build forts (not Daniel he prefers the inside in the winter, I get that!) Daniel sang us the Thanksgiving song from one of his favorite shows of past Bear in the Big Blue House. I looked for the video on You Tube and couldn't find it. He sang it word for word to all of us, he probably used to watch that video 6 to 8 years ago and he knows every word. That never ceases to amaze me! "thanks for the stuffing and pumpkin pie, thanks for the meal that's in store, thanks for the sun up there in the sky! So much to be thankful for!" It's super cute and he did a wonderful job. I liked that he alone got to be center stage and everyone appreciated his performance. Daniel was thankful for pumpkin pie, which he does not like to eat but really loves the IDEA of pumpkin pie. That makes him think of Thanksgiving. He ate one bite and had the most awful look on his face and said "that's great, I'm done now".

We left on Friday and headed to Todd's parents. Where Todd immediately went to an urgent care and got some antibiotics and his own eye drops. We got to spend time with his brother and his wife, Todd's parents and my dad and his fiance. In short, a whole new group of people to infect. I asked if we should go home between these legs, but he'd have nothing to do with it. I went out Saturday night and had drinks with friends from college, highschool and elementary school! Todd very wisely stayed at his parents. I got to catch up and chat with some very dear friends who I don't see enough of. We had a stormy drive home on Sunday and watched a van spin off the road into the ditch, it took much longer than usual to get home, but we made it safely. It doesn't sound like the ideal weekend by any means. There were a lot of negative things, but for me, since I wasn't the sick one I found a lot of things that I am feeling particularly thankful for this Sunday night. And if we get through this week without anyone else coming down with pink eye THAT will truly be something to be thankful for!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bike Camp VII

Writing these entries about Daniel's bike camp achievements has me basking in the glow of our accomplishments yet again. Sometimes I look at him with such amazement. My heart swells with pride and love. But sometimes it's so much work. Maybe this just goes along with the saying, (I never remember things like this so I'll butcher it) the harder the work the sweeter the reward? Whatever. It makes getting there even more triumphant. I will say I was warned about what would come after camp. But I tucked it away to the corners of my mind, until camp was finished. I need to do this with Daniel, because otherwise it is just too much information to handle at once. I sort of have to do something, check it off my mental list, then find the next thing in line. I know it's there but I compartmentalize it and pull it out when I need it. So the after was here.

The after is practice. He could ride on two wheels, but was wobbly. At camp we had the giant handle to grab if he started going down. At home we won't. At camp there were college age kids chasing him. At home we have 40+ year olds' who prefer a glass of wine to running in 5k's. So my summer of chasing Daniel up and down the street had begun. We added "ride bike". To his job chart. The job chart was started by a speech therapist we do groups with on Monday nights. She's awesome. I'll write on that later. But she started a job chart. It was hard to get started, as things usually are. It's the transition. But now. If you put something on that job chart, it WILL happen. Just try to stop it! So we added ride bike. Usually I'll put things like this down as 3 times a week or 2 times a week. Then if we are out of town or something we don't have to bring the bike or whatever with us. Because like I said, we'd be doing it. So we started, riding up and down the street with me chasing him. Within a few passes I was gasping for air and coughing and looking downright pathetic. He'd get mad at me because I wasn't keeping up. After a week or so, I mostly had to get him started. He had not mastered starting on his own at camp. They would like this to happen, but he didn't quite get there. So I would tell him which house to stop at, get him going and jog at my own pace to where he was. He would have been stopped and WAITING for me. Waiting is a four letter word for Daniel. Not ever something that makes him happy, but he had too. Mom's just too out of shape kid. So he'd turn around and we'd do it again. Up and down up and down. Of course during this time we were having some of the hottest Michigan weather known to man. It can get humid here, and it was. There is no point to this information except that I'm whining and hoping people feel a bit sorry for me. I know I probably just sound pathetic, so I'll move on.

As he got more steady, we moved on to starting. This was and is always a tricky part of bike riding. But he did pretty well. You just have to STICK TO IT. I'll admit having that job chart probably helped me too, because it kept ME on task. I can see why people bail on this. This probably took about a month to get to this point. We decided to go around the block. It's a pretty good sized block. I was still on foot. So off he went. But I was still jogging and really, my stamina did not seem to be improving. I sort of had high hopes that it may, but I didn't seem to be progressing as much as Daniel. He would get so far ahead of me going around the block, since he was ON A BIKE and I was running and gasping. So I would eventually have to yell for him to STOP! This did not go over well either. He doesn't like to be interrupted. I would just apologize and ask for a minute to catch my breath. It doesn't go without saying that neighbors would usually be smiling and waving at me and, I'm sure, laughing hysterically when they'd go inside! I don't care, we were making progress!

We were going "up north" as us Michiganders say. I wish I knew how that started, but pretty much where ever you live at some point you go "up north". It widely covers almost any destination in Michigan. So in our up north preparations, we decided we had better bring the bikes to keep up the practice. The kids and I were planning on being gone for 2 weeks, so that would be a huge interruption. We brought the bikes. But when we got "up north" I told him, I wasn't running anymore, I was riding my own bike. If he needed a push I could start him and then jump on mine. This was not happy news because apparently I had set the pattern of running. But mama was done running and needed to get her butt on a bike to keep up. If you have a child on the spectrum, to me, this kind of change is easier to do in a different setting. We were in a different city, so that made the change more acceptable to him. Had it been on our block, I think I would have heard a lot more complaining. It is best to be firm and not show any chance of cracking. If he wants to ride, these are the new rules. He accepted and off we went. Riding "up north".

Our bike riding then expanded again. During the 2 weeks up north, we expanded to places. The beach, the skate park, downtown or the library. This is what we'd been working for. I would ride behind Daniel so I could keep my eyes on him and shout out instructions like "slow down", "don't hit the people", or more specifically "yell to the people excuse me and go around them". Things like that. There are literally thousands of scenarios that can come up when you are riding. Daniel is autistic and he does not generalize very well. So pretty much you have to do every situation over and over and over and it doesn't generalize to another situation. It is exhausting. Sometimes when we'd get home I'd have to escape to a quiet room to pull myself together. It was really mentally exhausting.

I discovered there are lots of terms he didn't really understand. One of which is crosswalk. By the way there are, visually, tons of different crosswalks. (I'm married to a civil engineer and complained about this, but apparently he does not have the authority to change crosswalks all over the USA. Huh.) They don't ever look exactly the same. Some have stripes in them, sometimes it's just parallel lines, sometimes the pavement is raised. No two look alike, therefore at each one he doesn't seem to know what to do. This became very frustrating for me. I found a cartoon online that completely made me laugh. I have showed it to people who do not have kids on the spectrum and they didn't really get why I thought it was so funny. Or they told me what they thought and it was way off. So maybe this is just for my own amusement.

I realize explaining this will probably take away the humor, but as my husband tells me with some frequency, I suck at telling jokes, so why stop now? Ya see, my vision of this is Daniel is the person on the sidewalk. The sign says WALK. So he would just WALK. That's what the sign says. So if someone is turning their car in front of you, even though they shouldn't with pedestrians present, he'd just WALK. If there were crocodiles in the road, dog gone it, he'd go. The sign says to after all. It makes it very difficult to teach a rule then explain the millions of scenarios that break the rule. I would constantly tell him to cross within a cross walk and he'd go off in the other direction, the wrong way, and therefore INTO traffic. I swear I lost 10 years of my life in these exchanges. But, it all has to be learned. I was surprised that he didn't understand some of these things already. But apparently, he didn't! Who knew? And if there is any chance of him driving and owning that "little yellow car" he so wants to own some day, better to start learning these things now, before he is behind the wheel of a deadly car.

In the mean time, the bikes are hung up on the roof of the garage. The snow is flying, way too much for November, and we are taking it easy until spring time. We did get to take those family rides to the library, to his old elementary school (2 miles away!) and to his current school. We never did make it to the Aquatics center. But that's OK, we have lots and lots of bike rides in our future.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bike Camp Part VI

My nerves about the new bike were alleviated when upon rolling Daniel's new shiny silver bike into the camp the camp director looked at it and got a huge smile on her face and said "SWEET BIKE". They were very impressed. I had done well! It wasn't a model on their list, so I was nervous, but it seemed to meet the criteria. Phew!

We put it aside and he gets on a bike. Soon enough he switches to a two wheeler. It has a big handle on the back so the spotters can grab it easily and help guide them. They can also be running and easily help them balance. You can purchase the handles and attach them to your own bikes. I inquired about this and they said I could NOT because Daniel's bike wouldn't accommodate it. It is an adult sized bike and the construction won't allow it. Great. That's a strike for me.

So Daniel is riding while they are holding the handle. When they start letting go and running behind he would sort of make these diving turns. He would turn SO sharply and it would look like he was about to wipe out, but he would adjust it (and his spotter would help). Then he would SCREAM at the top of his lungs like someone was doing this TO him, when in fact he was doing it to HIMSELF. This continued on for a while. The directors were called out onto the floor. Daniel was upset. Oh boy. Here we go. Here is a picture that I titled "the Daniel conference," He's right in the middle of it, by the way.

Then they are headed over to the doors where I'm looking in. I here "mom, we need some help". She says she has seen this before (I told you they've seen everything). They thought he was doing it for a few reasons 1. He is testing the new found skill/boundary. Seeing what will happen. 2. He is getting some sort of sensory pressure when he does this. It, at the same time, thrills him, and scares the crap out of him (hence the screaming!) They, to their credit, wanted my advice. I believe I told them to tell him why he shouldn't do that and keep trying. I believed he'd work it out. And, he did. The screaming was a change from the constant singing of the last few days! I couldn't believe I was thinking this but I wanted Monster in the Mirror back! FAST! We left that day with him having ridden a bike on his own. I mean really. Day 4 he did it on his own. When that child sets his mind to something, he achieves it!

Day 5, Friday. He starts off inside. Pretty quickly they move him out to the parking lot. I am getting anxious because I am realizing after this session we are ON OUR OWN. I need to know what the heck I'm doing to help him. They told me to "where your running shoes" on this day so I could run with him. Excuse me? I am so out of shape. I may not be over weight, but in terms of stamina, I can barely make it to the corner in a jog.

Daniel is, as expected, also feeling anxious. This is a big deal. He was having an inner struggle, as was I. I needed these people! Daniel was getting really upset and Troy the spotter was standing next to me as another guy was running around the parking lot with Daniel. Sometimes they switch off so they can take a breather! Daniel was crabbing and yelling and generally unhappy. I don't know if it's because he was outside and thus far he'd been inside or the fact that it was 90 degrees in the shade. But he was pissed. I find this amazing, but Troy said, "we need to get him singing again". I was astounded! He was right! We do that all the time when he gets really edgy and unhappy. We get him on a song or something we know will "flip that switch" and turn it around. So I said, "yes, that is exactly what you need to do!" I mean really, I am so impressed with this guy. I wish I could contact him and tell him how incredible he is. In the craziness I don't think I ever did that. So Troy says, "he needs to sing Monster in the Mirror". Another volunteer said, "well get out there and get him singing it". Troy says, "I don't know the song." EVERY volunteer there laughed and said, "come ON you HAVE to know the song you have heard it for 75 minutes a day for 4 days!" I told him he didn't have to know all of it, that he could sing one line and he'll start in. So, bless his heart, Troy ran back out there, and started jogging next to Daniel. I couldn't hear what happened, but by the time they came by me again, Daniel was smiling ear to ear, with Troy running beside him, singing wubba wubba wubba , woo woo woo, that Monster in the Mirror it just might be YOU! I mean, how wonderful that an early college age kid would be that in tune to him and instinctively know what he needed. It brings tears to my eyes thinking of that again. BLESS you Troy! I hope you are out there working with kids, 'cause you should be!

At the end of the camp everyone went back inside. They had a little ceremony and gave the kids certificates and a bag of treats and a calendar. All of which Daniel was VERY excited about. He should be one proud kid, and he was. He looked in the mirror and faced that monster who was stopping him and he conquered it, because sometimes that Monster in the Mirror, it just might be YOU! In case you can't quite get the tune in your head. Here it is for you. If you were a Sesame Street fan, I guarantee you'll remember it and it will bring a smile to your face!

There will be one more part to this series, because, though it seems to be the end. It's the beginning of a lot more work. You need to be ready for that if you decide to go down this road! So look for part VII. I know I said I wouldn't go that far, but we have to be flexible, right? :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bike Camp Part V

Tuesday. Same thing, next day. Pack up everything, get into car. Drive for 75 minutes and start the camp. Each day the back "wheel" is changed so less and less of the flat base is touching the ground. It is gradual and the guy who invented this is a genius! Daniel gets on and GOES. He doesn't seem to be having any troubles. It is actually all going OK! I start dreaming of bike riding. The places we could go. The freedom this would give him. During our talks about this he says he would like to ride his bike to the library. That would be a great ride for the kids and I to do on a summer day. We talk of riding to the Aquatics Center. Our local pool that we frequent during the summer. So many things to do. Another was for Daniel to get exercise without knowing it! Oh the possibilities.

We finish day two without incident and head BACK to the zoo. This turns out to be the best zoo trip we've ever had. That is saying A LOT because we have been to A LOT of zoos. This one many many times. The Detroit Zoo is a fantastic zoo. I can't believe the number of people who live around here and have never been. If you haven't, please GO. These are my boys on the train. As you saw a few posts ago. Daniel loves trains. That is the first thing we do is get a ticket for the train. It takes you to the back of the park. Then we work our way to the front. It's the routine!

The polar bears are wonderful. On this day we lucked out. They were very active. You can go in a tunnel under the water and if you are lucky they'll be swimming above you. As they were here.

This guys stepped on the top of the tunnel. Look at the size of that foot! It was awesome! Then he decides to sit down and take a rest.

That playing was wearing him out! Here are my boys enjoying the bears!

This was a wonderfully successful day. It was exhausting and I could see it wearing on Daniel. He had ridden the bike two days for 75 minutes each day, plus walked around the huge Detroit Zoo for hours. He deserves it. I can tell he really wants to learn to ride. That is the most important thing. If they don't want it, it is not going to happen! No matter what.

Wednesday at the camp is the day that the parents meet with some of the camp officials. They have had two days to watch and evaluate your child. They sit you down and tell you what they are going to need to ride and what you are going to have to do to continue after camp is done. It is a big commitment and unless you are there in terms of committing yourself, after the camp is done it isn't going to work. They told me what size bike Daniel would need and gave me a list of recommendations. I can list off many things that the bikes should not be, but it needs to sit back some, not up like a mountain bike. More like a cruiser. Your weight is more evenly distributed. It's easier to ride. Now, if you have a bike you can bring it in on Thursday and they will make sure it is set up for him or her. I did not have a bike for him. They strongly recommend you invest in a GOOD bike. Not a Walmart special. They don't last and their cheapness will not make for it being easy to ride. (I secretly love this because I am very very anti Walmart, why? read up on it!)

We get home from the bike camp, fairly early. We didn't have any big outing planned and frankly at this point we were all to exhausted to do it anyway. But I was armed with my list of bikes and I hit the computer for local research. After a few hours rest I drug the boys out to a local bike shop. Now as soon as you say "bike shop" you can hear the cha ching of the cash register right? Right. The first stop was very unsuccessful. They didn't have what I was looking for in his size bike. I know the people who own this shop and wanted to support them. But I also wanted a bike to bring to the camp the next day so they could look at it and tell their thoughts.

We went home and I looked up another shop in Lansing. Riverfront Cycle. I highly recommend this store. We had a GREAT experience. I lucked out in that my cute young salesman had been through a similar camp helping teach kids with special needs to ride. He knew where I was coming from! When things like this happen I feel destiny and everything lining up. It sounds crazy, but it felt right and it was. We got Daniel the MOST amazing bike. It is a Giant which apparently people who ride bikes know of. I do not. The 10 speed bike I had in high school I bought with my own money at Meijer, so I am not an aficionado regarding bikes and quality. Which is why I wanted the camp instructors opinions. I bought the bike and new helmets for both boys (cha ching) and off we went. I immediately had a panic attack that I bought the wrong thing and, well I don't know what I thought would happen, but I thought I would have done the wrong thing (OH NO!?!) and then Daniel wouldn't want to return it. I guess that's my thought. But no. The next day, Zachary went to a friends house and Daniel and I loaded up his bike and took off for Detroit. They were going to put him on a two wheeler today! Thursday. The goal is Friday to have "graduated" to the "outside". We were on track, we had our new Giant in the back and Zachary didn't have to spend another day riding. Things were looking good. . .

Bike Camp Part IV

I never thought this series would end up four parts, but in reality it may be five not more than six! Too wordy? Probably! But hopefully there is at least one person out there it helps!

We have arrived at Bike Camp week! Monday is here. I have Mapquested, checked times, maps, moon alignments and also oddly enough, the weather. You see my big bribe, I mean reward, for getting through 75 minutes of riding a bike non stop in circles was that he'd get to go to the Detroit Zoo afterwards. We lined that up for Monday. A risky decision as I might be letting him catch that dangling carrot on DAY 1, but we went with it. We were meeting my cousin and her boys there too. I had it all planned. Zachary came along as we were planning the big zoo day too. Excitement was high. We had lunches and snacks, Nintendo DS's for car and while Zachary is waiting. Books. Basically, it looked like we were moving to the bike camp. I have learned to have plans a, b and c ready though. This is the looking ahead at all possible scenarios that separates us from the general ed parents.

Bike camp consists of getting on these special bikes. They look "normal" from the front. But in the back there is a wide flat "wheel". This gives stability. There is no rocking back and forth like on training wheels. It gives the rider a much more stable base. Plus each child has at least one spotter. Daniel had two for part of the camp. I believe this was due to his size and weight which you had to provide ahead of time. 120#'s of boy falling over on you can take you down in a hurry. Although I never saw someone fall over. The bikes really don't allow for that. Although it's not impossible. So he had two guys on him. The parents were informed, "no parents in the gym". Gasp! We had to watch through a window. The camp was in a huge gym in a church in Bloomfield Hills. They had bikes ready for the kids via the height and weight previously mentioned. I guess experience has taught the instructors that parents are a distraction. While I totally agree with this, I was pretty bummed. We could check on them though. They just got on and RODE. Around and around and around. Then stop and switch directions (so you aren't always turning left, for example) What this does, and I'm paraphrasing so don't quote me on this, is basically training your brain. That's why they don't want them stopping to ask mom if they can stop and hang out. The more you keep going the better. Then if one kid stops they ALL stop. They obviously would let them stop for a drink if needed, but would get them RIGHT back on. Had they told me this ahead of time I never would have thought this would be possible. But he just did it. These people travel all over the country teaching our kids. So don't let me you hear you say they couldn't handle your kid you'd have to be in there. I believe they have seen it all. And you are right outside the door. Then you go home and sleep on it. This is an important step. Apparently you are still learning it as you are sleeping. I love this!! Learning something while you are sleeping? Pardon the pun, but for me, that's a dream! ahem, sorry. As Zachary likes to say, "my mom loves to sleep." He's so right!

Now when Daniel moves, he sings and or talks. So I can here him in the gym singing. Believe me. This would not be listed under the category, "singing quietly to yourself". He BELTS it out. He is moving, he's singing. It goes hand in hand. He used to do it on the swings too. It's like the motion sets something off. So he's in the gym with Troy the spotter running after him and Daniel is singing "the Monster in the Mirror" at the top of his lungs. (Think Grover from Sesame Street). Sigh. This is Troy with Daniel. These people sign up to RUN for 4 shifts, 75 minutes at a time for 5 days in a row. There is a very special place for them in heaven!

We finish up. Go to the zoo. The whole way to the zoo. DARK clouds are looming. Oh no. This never makes him happy. He is understandably concerned. We get to the zoo. I call my cousin. They are standing by the entrance. By the time we get there, it's raining. My cousin, looks at Daniel (she is a social worker by training, a domestic goddess like myself currently) and says something like Daniel lets go to my house and we'll try again tomorrow. And about as quickly as that happens the sky's parted and, saying it rained, well that would be too much of an understatement. We all turned around and RAN! Daniel was running (this does not hardly ever happen!) . He was running and screaming at the top of his lungs simultaneously. We got into the parking ramp and he let out a scream that you would for sure think someone was stabbing him. The ramp was FULL of people escaping the rain. Now all looking at us. I have LONG ago gotten over this. It used to kill me. I guess I'm not so self absorbed anymore. I calmly told him we would try again tomorrow. He calmed down. Here is the other thing I hear, "you're so lucky he calms down like that, my child wouldn't." Well, my child didn't used to either. This is from YEARS AND YEARS of saying this over and over and over and THEN FOLLOWING THROUGH and doing what I said I'd do. He finally learned he could trust me. I will not say I'm going to do something if I'm not going to. He wouldn't understand that. I don't say, "we'll for sure go tomorrow". "I say we will try again tomorrow and see what the weather is doing."Clearly by the rain that was coming down there was no way we were going in. That was a blessing probably. If it had be drizzling it might have been a more difficult call. Zachary was thrilled to be going to play with his cousins. I guess, at least we had more opportunities to try again. We had four more days. If we had waited until Friday and that happened, we would be going over yet again.

It wasn't how I planned it, but we had plan B. He knew we'd try again. He finished his first day of camp. Now it's time to go home and, well, sleep on it. And try try again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Crying at the bus stop

Over the past few years I have watched a phenomenon happen. As I was walking home from the bus stop this morning I realized there is something sort of magical that occurs there. It's a place where, usually, women gather every morning and afternoon for a short period of time and during those times we all learn snippets about each other.

In my neighborhood we are fortunate that our bus stop is at our neighborhood park. This creates a wonderful time in that, on days weather permitting, the kids want to stay and play for a while. Sometimes this for a while turns in to an hour, sometimes it's 10 minutes. You never know. But usually we are there for some time with each other. If one of is late, we tell the bus driver, no worries, we'll take care of them until the mom gets here. If we are stuck someplace we can call someone and say, "will you be there and tell them not to worry, I'm coming". All of our kids are comfortable with this. They know they are in good hands. We have quite an array of "moms" at our stop. We have Dr's, Grad students, ministers, Speech paths, almost anything you need, we have it. It's sort of an unlikely group of friends who all bond together at 8:00 am and 4:00 pm 5 days a week. It is wonderful to know we all have each others backs.

Sometimes we talk about the kids, sometimes it's school, sometimes it is about ourselves as women. But what I have noticed is that these are people we don't know a whole lot about. I really don't know their whole families. I hear about the high school age daughters, husbands etc but really if I ran into them on the street I wouldn't know who they were. Yet I consider these people my friends and someone I let my kids go to their houses. We have built the relationships over time. We share joys, but we also share our pains. We can in 10 or 20 minutes unload what is going on, often cry, and then move on with our day. No one tries to fix anything. Usually we nod and say we understand and let me know if I can do anything. Sometimes when situation calls for it, we make meals for people, or go in on a plant or flower arrangement, signed, the bus stop moms. But I have come to rely upon these people and share with them. When appropriate they can say "wow that sucks, I'm sorry that happened" And that can be the end of it. Because really isn't that what women want? They don't want someone to solve their problems. They want someone to listen, or not listen, if you need to cry you just do, and then you move on.

I had a call during the day last year, saying can you get him from the bus stop I'm stuck at the hospital for a test. It went long. Is everything OK I ask? No, I have a tumor, is the reply. So I get the child from the bus stop. He's not worried, he gets a play date and the parents get piece of mind that they can deal with their immediate problem. We visit her in the hospital, bring her food, make her laugh and hope we did enough. Luckily this time, everything turned out ok.

The day after Obama was elected 3 of stayed and cried at the joy of knowing our world had changed forever.

Today someone was crying at the bus stop. She has a LOT going on. And you never knew it. She shared what it was, said "wow that felt good to say out loud". Then turned around, walked away and went to work. We all said how sorry we were, how can we help. And we mean it. We would all step up at any time. But really we did the most important thing of all, we gave her an outlet. An outlet to someone who doesn't know who your talking about, has no emotional connection to, just a sounding board. It's a beautiful thing.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Little red caboose chug chug chug

Today we went to the MSU pavilion because there was a giant train show. We have gone to this before but it's been a few years. It is HUGE! When Todd asked Daniel this morning if he'd be interested in going he screamed YES!!! It opened at 10:00 am so we were going to get on it and get there early. Which we actually did!!

Let's give some background. For those of you who are not familiar with autism, I have never met a child on the autism spectrum who did not LOVE trains. Love love love. I can't explain the love. At one of the very first autism conferences I went to the Dr. talked of this fascination. His theory is that they love linearness (is that a word?) OK, things lined up. Little kids on the spectrum are always lining things up. Trucks in a row, whatever it is. I find they are the same type of item. For example, hot wheels cars, dinosaurs, etc. (all also favs of kids on the spectrum!) Trains are naturally all in a row on their very own. And they MOVE. When Daniel was little he would move a car or something from just outside his peripheral vision then across his eyes. It is a stimulation. Occasionally he still does this with his hands. Not too much though. Here he is at the show doing this in a somewhat natural way.

His face is close to the glass and he is waiting for it to travel through his field of vision. This was his favorite table as they had "the best tunnel". And even greater excitement is watching a train travel down the track all neat in a row THEN watch it enter and exit a tunnel! Wow now THAT is excitement. He was almost shaking! We of course ran into one of the boys who is in his group speech therapy that we attend on Monday nights. There they mostly practice things like conversation etc. He did insist on running over to say hello to him and his dad. So this should be a nice conversation at group tomorrow!! It was NOT too surprising that we saw someone from the group though! LOL!

Here is my sweetie in front of one of the first exhibits we saw. The trains were quite large and one of them had smoke coming out of the engine. (on purpose!) He really enjoyed this. They had mats around it that you could kneel on and look. Unlike the last time we were at this show, Daniel did a GREAT job "looking only and not touching". He would have his hands shoved in his pockets so he wouldn't be tempted. These guys are very serious about their trains and they don't want anyone getting too close or touching. Daniel was even really good this time if something happened to one, like it came apart or they had to stop it to adjust it. He wouldn't get mad or upset. He understood they had to do that sometimes! Now that's progress! We even saw one train enthusiast inadvertently crash two of his trains. He didn't realize they were on the same track! While this was somewhat disturbing , he handled it well.

This was a huge exhibit made entirely of LEGOS. The trains, the buildings, everything. It was amazing. Now while a LOT of kids on the spectrum love Legos, especially the Asperger kids, Daniel does NOT. He appreciated the fact that this was entirely built from Legos, but they are not his thing. In fact. . . . if loose Lego pieces are laying around he GAGS at the sight of them. Does anyone else have this or any other inanimate object that makes them gag? I'd like to hear from you! I have something stored deep in my brain that this happens sometimes, but I can't quite remember. Now don't tell me it's because he choked on one as a little kid or something. That is not it. There are some things he just gags with. Usually it's a food, and usually he has never tried it, but it's the smell of it. But Legos, that's a whole different thing. . .
The train show was a success. Daniel found a $5 DVD he wanted BAD! That will probably be the best $5 I have ever spent. It is trains driving around on tracks. He'll spend hours and hours over the next years watching it. OK maybe in the next weeks, but I don't want to admit he may watch that much TV on the weekends! Zachary desperately wanted a tank he saw? I bought it for him. I even had to talk the guy into letting me write a check, because I was out of cash. I talked him into it. In fact it was such a success, it has me thinking, do we want to get a small electric train kit for the basement? Would he go nuts if it had to keep being readjusted? I think he'd be better than at any time ever before. All he'd need is a circle with a tunnel and I THINK he'd be set. Hmmmmmm. Just maybe.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

History has been made!

I have spent the last several days sort of in shock that it actually happened. Our country, the United States of America, elected Barack Hussein Obama. I honestly didn't think it would happen. I wanted it to happen. I wanted it to happen so much that I couldn't get my hopes up. That's how I've always been unfortunately. I keep my expectations low, so I don't get disappointed. It's not exactly the way to live vicariously, but it is self preservation.

Zachary has, for years, loved history. Especially presidential history. He, at age 7 could name the presidents in order backward and forward. In about a minute and a half. He quizzes me constantly. "Mom, name the first 10 presidents in order." I can get to 6 then I get stuck. Every single time. He breaks out in hysterical giggles every time I get to John Quincy Adams then stop. "How can you not remember mom?" I don't know. I just can't! He is full of statistics and information. I love that, among many things about him. About a year and a half ago we were in the car in Florida and we were playing the initials game. You know? You give initials to a person then they ask questions to figure out who it is. So we are going along with SB (Spongebob) etc and he says to my aunt. GF. The questions start, and continue and continue. Finally, she gives up. My aunt is a teacher and knows a LOT of information. She gave up. Geraldine Ferraro. She ran for vice president with. . . . hmmmm I can't remember who, but she did and I can picture her but can't remember the details. That's how my brain works! We laughed and laughed. He stumped her alright.

So when this whole election process started he was THRILLED to find out a woman and an African American were running against each other on the democratic ticket. How exciting. History in the making. Whichever one went on to run would be history. The boy loves history. I was sort of unsure through the whole thing who I wanted to get the democratic nomination. I felt they both had their merits. I knew whoever it was I would be supporting that person. Then when John McCain picked Sarah Palin (cough cough) Zachary was even more thrilled knowing whoever won it would be historic. So, in short, this election became a BIG deal in our house.

I am only referring to Zachary in this entry because, despite my trying, Daniel doesn't understand this whole thing. On the way to school, we'd chat about the signs on the lawn, of who the homeowner is supporting. I'd describe what was going on. And he'd talk about the sun or the trees or the squirrels and I'd go back to what he wants to talk about. In recent days I would talk about Barack Obama and John McCain, then ask the next day and it would be all new again. It left a pit in my stomach, because I knew he didn't understand. It meant nothing to him. He had no connection. That is where it is left up to us to try to elect a president who we feel can help Daniel the most. Isn't that what it's about for us parents? Trying to lay out a future for your children that is the best for them? So we keep talking to him about it. The day after the election he finally said "Obama". So we were getting somewhere. We keep trying.

When Obama came to MSU I rode my bike down to campus and stood outside of the rally. Some said there were over 20,000 people there. It was electrifying. I don't care if you are a Republican, Democrat, whatever all were there. There were McCain supporters carrying signs and shouting at people, there were Obama supporters coming together. I was smiling the whole time. This is America. Where everyone can come together and listen to a speech and be against it or totally invigorated. I loved every second of it. I missed all the people I was supposed to meet, but really I think it was better. I stood there on my own watching the people and taking it all it. It was wonderful.

As the election drew near, Zachary asked if he could come and vote with me. Absolutely. Talk was the lines would be long. But I knew he wouldn't care. On election day I went and signed him out of school. He was SO excited. Not to be leaving school, but because my 8 year old knew that sometime huge was going to happen that day. I, was so proud that he wanted to be a part of it. That an 8 year old boy understood the gravity of what was happening that day. So we went to the polls. It was very crowded but not really a line. We waited maybe 5 minutes. We saw neighbors and acquaintances. I read through everything with him and showed him how you fill out the ballot. He was fascinated. We went back to school.

Todd and I watched the spin and results and the magic maps with great interest. It seemed early on that there wasn't going to be much of a contest. We were both very tired and went to sleep before the concession speech. But the next day I watched everything online. I really couldn't believe it happened! I was sure that some how it was going to get messed up. But no. It actually happened. The first thing Zachary asked me was who won. When I told him Obama, he was jumping around the family room. I was so excited for Obama. But I was more excited for our country. I really didn't think that I'd see an African American become the president of the United States. The negative part of me, felt like too many people are still to racist to elect someone like Obama. But Obama did something no one else has in a long time. He united people. People came out to vote in record numbers. They made history happen. Each and every person did it together. I know people who cried all day Tuesday with joy, elation, relief, and hope. The only time I cried is when I told my children it happened. That Obama was elected for them. It was the knowing that anything can happen. The walls can come down. That individuals can work together to get it done. That anything is possible. That this lesson transcends the election. In our house, knowing anything is possible takes on a different meaning. It is not putting a limitation on someone. Not deciding what they can and can't learn. Because Daniel has proven to us over and over, he will always surprise us. Sometimes, even your country can surprise you.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

At last!!! Bike riding Part III

Rewind to last spring. I was asking around about bike riding and then it finally happened. I hit the jackpot of information! I had emailed a professor at MSU. She runs the Kinesiology program at MSU that Daniel has been swimming in since he was 6 years old. He just turned 12. I'll write about this another time. . . this was one of those times when you realize you just have to keep asking. She had JUST returned from a conference and received a ton of information on the very subject of bike riding. YES!!!!! She sent me to a website. I immediately went to the site and what was laid out before me was sensory overload to the max!! This was exactly what I'd been looking for! I knew it was the answer for us. They travel all over the country running camps for kids with special needs to teach them how to ride a bike in a one week training, that is intense. I look at it as ripping off the bandaid. I knew it was going to be tough, but one week of hell weighed against possible years of frustrating teaching, and hauling Daniel around on a tandem that we would probably need to buy. . . I couldn't borrow that beautiful bike forever!

After reading and learning all the things we had been doing wrong and what actually worked I went right to the schedule of camps. Typed in Michigan. . . one camp came up. ONE! It was in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. This is about 75 miles from us. A suburb of Detroit. Which means horrible traffic. It is the car capital of the country right? I lived there, one of the reasons we left was the traffic. Oye. This wasn't going to be pretty. I signed up right away. The camp was the 3rd week in June. So far so good. No vacations planned that week, nothing on the schedule. You could pick what session you wanted. There were two in the morning, and two in the afternoon. This is a very important choice. I'm sure most parents have this, but with our kids (meaning kids on the spectrum) we need to make sure all of the stars are aligned properly. So the time was important. I chose the 10:30 to 11:55 time slot. Thinking we could leave by 9:00 am. Not too early. We could have a fairly relaxed (or at least on the surface, I would be a mess inside!) morning, of getting up, eating a good breakfast, driving to Bloomfield Hills and most importantly missing the morning commute!

Driving distances is not on Daniel's list of favorite things. Whenever we get into a car the first question is, "how long is this going to take?" So I knew that I had some work to do to, in the words of Tim Gunn, "make it work". But that's what I do right? That is my job. That is why I constantly have these scenarios running over and over in my head. I figure out how to make it work. We found the answer, we signed up, now we get to "make it work". I wish I was as fabulous as Tim Gunn somehow he always seems to know how to make it work. Me? I need some time to figure it out and figure out how Zachary fits into this week.