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IEP Reports, Recovery and Tears… Always Tears.

February 19, 2014

Reading IEP Reports ALWAYS makes me cry.  They’re long and dry and they capture moments of a child’s life in unfeeling terms.  I guess that is what they’re supposed to do, give a “measurement” of symptoms for comparison to previous years.  Professionals LOVE data.

To me they were painful because they reinforced what we already knew about our child but they never added any happy.  They quantify undesired behaviors but they don’t say a single word about his amazing blue eyes, his shy smile, his laugh or any of the million other things that have made me fall crazy in love with him over and over again every day of his 18+ years.

So this morning I stumbled upon a  bunch of these reports and before I knew it I was knee deep, wading through them.  I couldn’t stop myself.  The childhood years have passed so quickly, I just wanted to remember my little boy, now a man.

At times I can’t make sense of the words swimming on the pages before me.  A few heavy blinks and they spring back into orderly lines.  Sure, now the front of my pajama top is soaking but I don’t care.  Can’t. Stop. Now.

I am transported to the tiny conference rooms, seated at a too-small table filled with four to six professional educators, social workers, behavioral consultants, psychologists, autism specialists; all waiting, I believed, for a turn to beat my emotional brains in.  Occasionally there would be a person who would say something wonderfully insightful about our child, letting me know that they knew my REAL Ben  Twice there were teachers who teared up, watching me weep as I listened to the results of the current round of testing and observations, placing my baby at various levels on various scales of achievement.

I can even remember some of the outfits I wore, chosen oh, so carefully, to convey a message that I’m intelligent enough to chose coordinating clothing, have a husband who loves me, that we can afford nice things and that I will not be “talked down to.”  Funny, to this day I still consider the earrings I wore my “IEP earrings” because they made me feel confident enough to  face these highly educated people.  It was as if earrings could bridge the gap between my two years of college and their 4,6,8.  Looking back I guess I just wanted to convince someone, ANYONE, that I wasn’t scared because I sure as hell couldn’t convince myself.

Reading these reports today is different for me and I weep now because I believe that my son is recovered. RECOVERED.

Gone are the tics, the stimming behaviors, the lack of eye contact, the choosing physical return over verbal.  The things that masked his brilliance are gone.  I believe he is now entirely neuro-typical.  I see a bright future ahead of him.  I weep because looking back I see clearly the grace of God woven into Ben’s years of work at self mastery.  I see my son, this brave, funny, kind, handsome, holy man emerging from Autism and walking down the path God has lain before him.  I see Ben cooperating with God’s plan for him.

I weep tears of joy.

Thankful

November 15, 2013

Every November I read the daily “Today I’m thankful for…” posts of my Facebook friends and am inspired by them, thinking “Maybe next year I will get my poop in a group and post my own.”

This year is no different.  I want to, I really do, but… well… allow me to sing you the song of my people:  “Aint nobody got time for that!”  (Sung in the key of “R”, of course.)

All singing aside, I truly am thankful.  Here’s why:

  • I am the last one to bed every night and first one up every morning, queen of the realm and boss of all things domestic and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • At home I am always within 5 feet of at least one huge poodle, but usually all three curly, slimy, barking, cat-chasing, smelly, snoring, disobedient, burping, bed-chewing beasts who make me laugh every minute of every hour of every day.
  • When I’m not home I am most likely in a car with at least one delightful Susschild, but sometimes all three.  I get to witness all of them become who they are meant to be.  God’s plan fulfilled before my eyes in these three kind, smart, humble, owners of my heart. I sometimes worry that they will figure out what a goon I really am and trade me for a bag of magic beans.  That worry makes every minute I spend with them all the more precious.
  • God has blessed me with two brilliant, funny, supportive, amazing parents from whom I have learned more than I could have ever learned on my own.  They passed their faith to me and I embrace it with every fiber of my being.  Despite my selfishness, they love me and they tell me every single day.  I would not be who I am, nor would I have the life I have if God hadn’t placed me in their care.  They are the reason I am me.  Depending on your opinion of me you can thank them or shoot them in the face with a bazooka.
  • I am thankful for the generous, funny, tender, sweet woman who raised my husband and is now trapped in-between here and heaven.  Although Alzheimer’s has taken most of her away from us and her brain and her body are atrophied, I am thankful that she is close and that every now and then, although farther and farther apart, I can get a laugh or a smile from her and see the real Sue, if for only a second.
  • I’m married to the sweetest, most hard-working man, whose sacrifices allow me to live this magical life, surrounded by poodles and Grandpeeps and Susschildren.  I have a hand to hold and a reason to live.  This man.  Coincidence that I met him on the ninth day of a St. Anthony (he finds things) novena?  Nope.  I didn’t ask St. Anthony for much, only every tiny detail: hair color, eye color, facial features, height, intelligent, college student, preferably an engineering major, who thought I was all that and a bag of potato chips.  He was, and continues to be, an answer to my prayers.  He knows everything about me, all my faults and weaknesses and he still choses me on a daily basis.  After almost 27 years of marriage I still marvel that this is really happening.  He is my happily ever after.
  • Sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins who I promoted to sisters, nieces, nephews are all the accoutrement that membership in a large, crazy, wonderful family provides.  I’m part of a tapestry, part of a story.  These are the first friends, the ones who HAD to play with me, on account-a we swim in the same gene pool.  An extended family is a gift that can so easily be taken for granted.
  • The close friends who I know will rush to my side when they hear “Help! We’re losing her, people! Push 50cc of Pinot” or “Help! Starbucks STAT!” or “Help! Nosebleed!” or “Help! My kitchen is over-run with puppies!” or any of the other eleventy billion mental, physical or imaginary emergencies I can (and have) come up with.  I have heard it said that friends are the family we choose, which in no way diminishes our biological family but adds to  it, another layer to keep us warm.  There are also those who are echoes in my heart but I don’t see very often.  When we do meet, it is as if no time has passed and there are no awkward silences.
  • Then there are all the people who have wandered in and/or out of my life over these 51+ years, for whom I am thankful, some for the joy they brought into my life for a season and some for the lessons they taught me right before the screen door hit them on the backside.   Each one is a blessing.
  • I once read that if there was only ever one person in all of creation and that one person was in need of a Savior, Christ would still have endured the cross for one.  ANY one of us.  This is how much He loves each of us.  He loves us and wants us with him.   He cares enough about each one of us to put a different fingerprint on every finger ever, with no repeats.  He has a plan and a path for each of us and like our fingerprints, no two are the same.  It is up to us to find our path and to move forward.  Move toward Him.  I am thankful that He loves me and that he forgives me for all I am not.

All I ever wanted is to love and to be loved.  I have all I could ever imagine wanting.  I do not deserve this life and yet here I am.

Grateful.

So very grateful.

Buddy Eric

September 15, 2013

In the late eighties I was a young wife and new mom.  I didn’t know much about how the world really worked and I was still naïve.  One uneventful summer weekend a young, single man moved in next door to our Berkley bungalow.  I delivered a pan of brownies to welcome him.  That was the day our friendship began.

Buddy Eric  circa 1995

Eric c. 1995

He was a bright, sunny Californian who lived in the Detroit area because of his work.  He was intelligent, funny, kind, articulate, generous and wonderful.  Jon and I loved him like a brother and he made us part of his Michigan family.  Our toddler, Anna, adored him and he adored her.  She would run to him and he would scoop her up and they would have a love fest.  She called him “Buddy Eric” and eventually Jon and I did, too.

The day Desert Storm began he banged on my door and breathlessly told me what was happening.  He and I sat on my sofa, stunned, watching the events unfold on CNN, holding hands and crying.  We shared many important events, some scary, some happy and some sad.  Eric was devastated when his dad, so far away, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

In time my family moved but I kept in touch with our “Buddy” and he would come over now and then for dinner.  One Sunday he called and said he needed to talk to us and asked if it would it be ok if he came right over.  Of course it was and he did.  Over the next two hours our precious friend told a horrific story about childhood sexual abuse and he confided in us that he was gay.  As he told us everything all three of us wept.  He had held so much in for so long, alone.  It was gut-wrenching to see this beloved friend in so much pain.

I had worked with a few gay men but I had never had someone so close to my heart “come out.”  My initial feeling was shock but I quickly realized that absolutely nothing had changed; he was the same Eric I loved and cherished.  He was still funny and kind and wonderful.  The only thing that changed was my knowledge of his abuse and sexual preference.  If new knowledge ends our love for someone then the love must not have been real. I feel blessed that my initial shock immediately returned to the real love I have for Eric.  It was an honor that he felt he could finally be completely honest and vulnerable by telling us everything.  I thank God that both Jon and I were able to tell him then and there that we loved him and that we were there for him.

We had a few more visits with him; the last was in 1995, shortly after the birth of our second child. Eric was moving home to California and he thanked us for our friendship and our love.  I think we may have received one or two letters from him at first but eventually we lost contact.

I never forgot about Eric and prayed for his peace whenever I thought about him.

Six years ago I decided that I missed him and I set out to find him so I could catch up with him. I Googled him.  What I found, instead of contact information, was a website set up by his family, dedicated to his memory.  At the time he had been dead a little over a year.  Our amazing, loving Buddy Eric had ended his own life.

I was heartbroken to know that this beautiful person, one of the most wonderful men I would ever meet, was so wounded that he couldn’t see any other way to find peace.  Somehow he lost the knowledge that he was loved and he believed that his life was no longer worth living.

As I said, I was heartbroken.  Was.  I’m still heartbroken but now I am also mad.  Why is our society so cruel?

He was broken as a boy, by abuse.  As an adult, when faced with his own traumatic reality he shattered into a million little pieces.  He needed love.  He needed acceptance.  He needed God.  Unfortunately, ours is a world with a serious lack of love and acceptance.  I’m certain Eric found love and acceptance from his mom and from his friends but from society as a whole?  Probably not.

It is when you are broken into a million little pieces that God can come in and perform wonders.  He can re-build you into so much more than you can build yourself.  His love can make all things new.  Sometimes staying focused on His love is so blasted hard. There is always someone there to drown out God’s voice, ironically, often by proclaiming God’s word… or at least their own interpretation of His word.

Make no mistake, our world is filled with God and His all-powerful love is always there but when His creatures, humans, treat one another with contempt, anger, fear, blame and unkindness, it is really, REALLY hard to hear God’s voice.  “I love you.  You are mine.”

Think about it… when was the last time you heard Him?  When was the last time you listened for Him?  When was the last time you extended His mercy to someone who needed it?  I did not say “to someone who deserved it.” God freely gives His mercy and His forgiveness to each one of us each and every time we ask.  Why would any human think that he or she had the authority to decide who gets mercy (kindness) and who does not?

Jesus gave us two commandments… “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.“  Matthew 22: 37-39

Eric, shortly before his death 2006

We are supposed to love God and love one another.

I feel guilt that I lost contact with Eric.  I wonder how the world treated him in his last years.  Was he shown God’s love or was he judged and treated unfairly?  Was it his own feelings of guilt that lead to his suicide?  Did he believe that the world hated him or was he told that mercy and love were not meant for him?  Did he believe the lies that morals vigilantes perpetuate?

What people say is only what people say.  What people think is only what people think.  What people do is only what people do.  Feelings are only feelings.  There is one real, unchanging truth:  God created you because He loves you.  He loves you and He wants you and He never stops loving you.  Ever.  People often have small minds and say mean, judgmental things… they are only people.  Who gives a crap?  Screw them.  Screw them all.  God loves you.  YOU are his absolute favorite.  Period.

Today my heart was heavy.  Today I contemplate two truths.  The first is that Eric is no longer here.  If I could tell Eric one thing it would be the second truth on my mind today: The only thing that truly matters most is love, God’s love.

God loves you, Eric.

As The Poodle Turns… Season 3?

May 30, 2013

YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS… Just when you thought the saga was long behind us…. Another installment of As The Poodle Turns… Season 3.

Jon’s cousin, Marg, who lives near Toronto called us last week to see if we were still breeding poodles because her beloved dog had died and they would like to adopt another pet.  Jon very sweetly told her that we are not.  I would have screamed, soiled myself and fainted (in no particular order) at the suggestion that we EVER do that again so it’s good that Jon answered.

So here’s the amazing part: Marg left us a voice mail over the weekend that she and her husband had just adopted a 2 year old standard poodle that was born in … yep!!  OUR TOWN – a very long way from Toronto!! The weekend was busy and we forgot to return her call. (I really am the worst at that.) She called back tonight and told us that the newest member of her family, Nellie, whom they adopted in Belleville, Ontario was, indeed, one of our Daisy’s babies. She has the exact birth date of our litter and the original buyer’s name was on the vet records.

WHAT ARE THE ODDS?? So many things have to line up for this to have happened! One of our puppies ended up NOT ONLY in the loving home of Jon’s wonderful cousin but she is in a foreign country: CANADA. WE LOVE CANADA!!! One of my grand-poodles is really living the life.

I told Daisy all of these joyous developments about her own baby and she burped and looked away. Nice, Daisy. Real nice.

We plan to go see them all this Summer.  Well, we humans plan to go visit.  Our curly beasts will stay with home with a house sitter.

Just in case you missed seasons 1 and 2 they are here and here.

Zippa de doo Dang

February 22, 2013

So this morning, as I was dressing for co-op, I saw a relatively new pair of brown pants that I haven’t worn since forever and I thought “Well, these are cute and comfy… Why don’t I ever wear them? Hmm.”

I put them on and went about getting ready for the day.

Forty five minutes later, walking into co-op I feel an icy blast of air in the nether region. My zipper was completely unzipped. Zip it, keep walking.

Thirty four minutes after that, while standing in front of my science class, quizzing them, zipper is down again.

OH FOR GOD’S CAKES… Now I remember why I never wear these pants.

Over the course of the next 7.5 hours I zipped my pants up 9 more times.

Yes, Lord… I’m paying attention.  What is it I am to learn from this?

Uninterrupted Eye Contact – The Ultimate Gift

February 15, 2013

Recently my daughters and I went through a Baby Mama binge.  No, we’re not pregnant and we’re not overeating.  We are watching the delightful movie by that name… over and over and over again.  Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are absolutely amazing in this movie.  Steve Martin has a small part and he is brilliant.  My favorite scene with him is one that we now reference in our house at least once a day.

If you’ve not seen the movie, I highly recommend it BUT NOT IF YOU’RE A KID.  This is a seriously funny movie but most definitely not for kids.  Here is my favorite scene, which is very kid-friendly.  (You only need to watch about 47 seconds.)

 

Yesterday, after a very long, stressful day at our co-op I stopped at our beloved Biggby Coffee to treat myself and my two teenagers to some after-school caffeine.  Being too exhausted to park and walk all the way into the building, I took advantage of the drive-thru window.

We (I) placed our order and in the 8 seconds it took to pull up to the window I became insanely happy.  The very long, mostly unpleasant day was over and I was about to pour espresso into my pie hole.  I was transformed!

The very sweet young man waiting at the window greeted me warmly.  Our drinks were still being made so he attempted to engage me in conversation.  “So, how are you today?”

“I am awesome!” I said, a little too loudly.  “How are YOU?”

“I’m just ok.”  Big smile. “I’m not awesome.”

“Well, you can be.  I can help you.”

My fourteen year old female child, keenly aware of just how cute this boy is, hissed “Omigod… Mom… no.

“I will give you five seconds of uninterrupted eye contact and transfer my awesome to you.”

The young man, an extremely good sport, leaned out of the drive-thru window and I leaned out of my car a little and with grins on our faces we held eye contact.

I don’t think he could hear the commotion in my car but I could and it made me giggle.

In the front seat was my sweet, kind, quiet, impressionable young daughter who was audibly having a mini stroke.   The word embarrassed doesn’t even begin to describe.  Later, when I would tell this story to my husband, she would quietly add “I died a little bit.”

In the back seat was my son, 17, laughing harder than I would have expected.  He is a very quiet dude and when he notices them, he takes my antics in stride.  I don’t know exactly why he was laughing.  Was it because I looked like a complete fool, because his sister was mortified or  because he actually found it amusing?

Upon careful reflection, I’ve decided that I don’t care why he was laughing.  I considered this a win because any time I can bring forth a genuine belly laugh from him or my husband (the old block from which the chip has been knocked)  I am over the moon.

Am I sorry I embarrassed my daughter?  I guess, in retrospect, I am, just a little.  Am I sorry I did it?  No.

Bonus… I learned that a crappy day can be turned around with a little espresso and a little tomfoolery.

Creepy Fish

October 28, 2012

By a show of hands, who else is creeped out by my Koi pond?

Yes, I have a Koi pond.  You can feed the fish by clicking on the “water”.  Go ahead, feed my fish.  It’s on your screen, scroll down a little on your right.   I’ll wait.

See?  Aren’t they just a lil’ creepy?

I forget they’re there and every time I’m reading my blog I jump when I see the Koi move.

Yes, I read my own blog.  Don’t judge, it is not what you think.  I read it because I like to play a little game with myself called “Hey, Smart One, that post you just published had 4 grammatical errors, 3 misspelled words and you left a whole paragraph out.”

You see, much like Marry Poppins I make  life a game.  More accurately, I make life a series of games.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Super Happy Pop Game:  In this game Player 1 pours himself a drink of a cold yummy liquid, usually pop, leaving less than an ounce in the container, which is then placed back in the fridge.  Points are earned if you can make another family member yell “Who drank all the pop?”  Bonus points are awarded if you remember to say “Not me, I left you some.”  Triple bonus points are awarded if there is a warm bottle of the same pop nearby and the other “player”, who is now Jones-ing for that drink has to pour warm pop over ice, watering it down and making it taste wonky.  Ah, good times, good times.
  • Super Happy Toilet Paper Game:  This wacky fun game is a variation on the Super Happy Pop Game.  You get the picture.
  • The Getting Ready for Bed Olympics:  Two players go up the stairs, put on their pajamas, brush their teeth, floss, wash their faces, go potty, wash hands and get in bed.  The first player in bed wins the game and gets to go to sleep first.
  • Dark Room Bed Jump Special Olympics:   This super fun one player game is played by the The Getting Ready for Bed Olympics (GRBO) loser.  Ah, who’m I kidding? It is played by me because sometimes I still get creeped out that maybe, just maaaaaaybe, there is something sinister under my side of the bed so I jump from as far away as I can, in the dark.  There are no points in this game but the winner does get to wake up the  GRBO champ and giggle while pretending that I did NOT just jump onto the bed.  There is a very good reason that this game is called “Special”:  at 50 I’m no longer graceful or coordinated. (She said as though she used to be graceful and/or coordinated.)
  • Chocolate Hide and Seek:  Hide a bag of Chocolates (Snickers, Dove, M & M’s are best) and sneak one into your mouth, chewing thoroughly and swallowing quickly.  Now go sit next to a family member and see how long it takes them to start sniffing the air and follow their nose straight to you.  One of my children would grab my head and actually touch her nose to my upper lip.  “Momma, What’s that good mell?”  Yes, not a typo, she always said “mell.”
  • Uh-Oh!  We’re All Deaf!: You know how when you play a game of Tag one person is “it”?  In this hilarious multi-player game the person who is “it” is seated and “busy” in the bathroom.  Play begins when the house phone rings.  All other players pretend to be deaf while the person who is “it” tries to stop being busy, wash her hands and make it to the house phone before it stops ringing.  The game is over when someone yells “Are all of you people deaf??”
  • Change Baby’s Poop Color:  I haven’t played this game in many years.  It goes like this:  Feed baby orange colored fruit and veggies in jars for one full day and her poop turns orange.  The next day feed her green fruit and veggie jars and see how fast you can change Baby’s Poop Color.  There was a very sad period in my life when I not only played this game but I also prayed every night that Gerber would start making blue, purple and pink foods.
  • Dishwasher Mayhem:  Players have to figure out if items in the dishwasher are clean or dirty.  If they are dirty, any additional dishes in the sink are loaded into the dishwasher, which is then turned on, with additional points given for remembering soap! If items in the dishwasher are clean, all items are unloaded and points are given when items are put in their proper cupboards.  All of this is done without having to be told.  Mmmm Hmmm, we play this game ALL the time.  “Without having to be told”  I crack me up.
  • Dark Stairway Phantom Race:  This one player race takes place in the dark. on the stairway, late at night when the house is silent and is played with a cell phone, glass of water and a book or clean laundry in your arms and one or more large poodles around your feet .  The object of the game is to go up the stairs as quickly as possible before the phantom hand lunges out from between the banister posts to grab you by the ankle and fling you to the bottom of the stairs, where it eats your still beating heart.
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