We’re blanketeers!

As you may have guessed, we really enjoy Disney World, so when the ad campaign came out late last year to “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day“, I thought I’d see if there was something we could do together to volunteer.

The process was easy; search through hundreds of opportunities all over the United States as well as Puerto Rico and Canada. Give a day of service, and get a free day at Disney. At $79 per ticket, that’s a deal for us. So we started hunting.

In Albion, Pennsylvania, we found Project Linus, whose mission is to”provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.” ”

How great is that?!

As I have a huge closet full of fabrics, lots of pairs of scissors and a sewing machine, we went to work. The Doctor and Little Miss cut out squares, and I’ve been sewing for a couple of weeks now in the evenings, piecing together quilts.

The Cabana Boy has pitched in supervising, and pinning fleece backs on the quilts. Little Miss is also my official cutter–as I put together strings of squares, she cuts the threads apart and gives them back to sew even longer strings. It suits her sense of order.

We’ve had a really good time, and we’ll be donating probably ten quilts total by the time we sew up all these squares.

Two of our creations, with proud participants

You might have noticed I didn’t mention the Captain above. This is because like the immortal Bartleby, the Asperger’s child preferred not to. His exact words were “That sounds like too much work for one day.”

So we took him at his word. When we go to Florida later in the year, I expect he’ll stay here with a relative. The decision has typified his thought process of late; he doesn’t choose effort in any field, home, school or family. We hope by making him live with the natural consequences of his choices, maybe someday he’ll “get it.”

As I sew these bits of fabric together, I think about the children who might have them, and hope they can find the sense of love and family togetherness that we have, in creating them.

Barbara Bush said, “To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”

Even if we can’t hug these children, these blankets can wrap around them and remind them they’re loved.

To find a chapter of Project Linus near you, see here.

Star author!

This weekend I found out I’d been given an award, over at the Polka Dot Banner –I’m a star author!!

This is very exciting, as it’s awarded for the books that I have posted there, including the Cup of Comfort books for Divorced Women and Adoptive Families, which each have a story of mine in them, and the divorce book I’ve written as well.

It also includes a special consideration for the fact that I support the PDB in its mission to promote writers, and acknowledgment that we all need to work together to make our careers successful. Whenever someone clicks on the PDB site, they have access to more than a hundred writers, where they can read blog posts full of great advice, search books, both fiction and non-fiction, and talk with authors on a very personal level.

It’s especially timely for me, as I have two manuscripts out for consideration with editors, one of whom has been very courteous and interested in my work, and I’m to the holding breath, biting nails stage.  So please send some good wishes my way, and celebrate with me!

Is it so hard to be the adult?

I attended a recent hearing where a father and son had been estranged for many years. The son had experienced serious issues growing up and had moved around from family member to family member, then ended up in the home of a stranger through foster care. He’d turned 18 and opted out of the system, even though he only had four months of high school to finish. He was leaving the state, potentially forever.

The father, my client, hadn’t come to many of the hearings over the years, at my suggestion, as the court refused to place the child with him because of a rocky history, and the boy wanted nothing to do with his father. Why take off a day of work to waste it in court?

But this hearing was different. The young man had stated his intention to leave, to forego his diploma, to strike out into the unknown without help. I suggested that Dad come to the hearing. It might be the last time he ever saw his son.

So he did. I give him credit for that. After years of the boy slamming the door in his face, he came to court to face him. After the hearing, in the hall, he gave the boy some news on family members he’d known, and we all stood there. Neither seemed to know what else to say, these two (now) adults related by blood but disengaged. I suggested that the dad shake hands with the young man, a symbolic healing of sorts, but his hands were firmly jammed in his pockets. He was clearly broadcasting his hurt feelings. “If he wants to,” he mumbled.

I looked to the newly-freed young man, and his attorney asked if he wanted to shake hands with his father. His hands remained jammed in his own pockets. He stared at the floor. He didn’t speak.

So after a long pause of uncomfortable silence, we all turned to shuffle away. Moment lost.

Maybe I’ve just been very fortunate with my own children, that we enjoy a relationship of mutual caring and respect. Even though they are far away, following their dreams, we communicate and share our lives. I can’t imagine being in a place where we couldn’t look each other in the eye, or take 10 seconds to allow our hands to come into contact, when it meant goodbye forever.

Who should have made the first move? I’d have said my client. He is the parent. He’s the adult. After all his years on the earth, he should have learned what the boy could miss without the possibility of that relationship. Yet he chose to allow his own petulance to block what might have been their last chance. It was one of the saddest moments of my career.

I’m a dance mom!

For years, I’ve been a bit envious of all those moms with pretty little ballerinas, rushing off to dance class, watching their little angels at recitals.

My big girls tried dance, found it wasn’t for them (at least the political aspect of other girls being teachers’ pets), and went on to other endeavors. For the longest time, I’d thought dance would go the way of the Boy Scouts–once they heard the “A” word, forget about it.

But thanks to the courage of one local dance school, Movement Unlimited, Little Miss has become a dancer.

She is in a modern dance class with kids several years younger, but she’s there. Parents got to sit in this week, and she kept up with the other girls, and followed directions perfectly, unlike many of the NT girls. She even volunteered when the teacher asked for leaders, and gracefully stepped aside when the teacher chose someone who had more experience.

I hadn’t realized just how awkward movement is for autistic kids, and she does struggle with smooth transitional movement. but she is interested in the class and what she’s doing. She’s even started watching the show Shimmy, and following along. (Although when her father tried to join in, she didn’t hesitate to inform him that ‘THIS dance was for girls!’)

i’m tickled, for her sake and ours. Now I’m one of those mothers anxiously hovering outside the studio, waiting. Isn’t it grand?

Never a dull moment

Amidst the angst and carrying-on about the children, the Captain’s travails, Dr. Doo-be-Doo getting ready for junior high, and Little Miss fighting off a nasty ear infection, we have also become “home away from home” for two young ladies from China’s Capital Normal College attending the local private college for a semester.

They don’t live with us–they live in a dorm. They’re very busy with their studies, because the school is a tough one. But we’re on call if they need something, and we’ve had dinner together–Chinese people cook very differently at their homes! We have also made a trip to Pittsburgh, to see some sights, like the Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Science Center. I’m not sure any of us really “got” Warhol and his co-artists, but the Shepard Fairey exhibit with the picture of Obama, the word HOPE under him, was displayed, and that exhibit was interesting.

The Science Center has a new sports activities center that had foot racing, all sorts of bouncing, flying, VR opportunities. The Cabana Boy and the Doctor climbed the rock wall–Dad made it to the top, Boy, not so much. We do have some pictures showing Dad’s best side. 🙂

See us here on the Overlooks on Mount Washington, doing our touristy best to show off a jewel of a city:

The girls had a good time here, but what they REALLY wanted to do was stop and visit the Prime Outlets at Grove City.  I’ve promised to take them and some of their friends who traveled with them for a full day there, once the weather gets nice. I guess girls will always be girls. 🙂

When The Answer isn’t enough

So we go Tuesday to Watson, half holding our breaths, waiting for the experts to tell us The Answer.

And the Answer is: Sorry your kid’s broken, sucks to be you. You shouldn’t hold him to such a high standard because he’ll never reach it. Make it easy on yourselves.

What a crock.

Not that they didn’t try. Maybe if the Captain was still five and this was a first visit, a first diagnosis of Asperger’s, ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and we hadn’t already tried just about everything we and the other therapists could think of, it wouldn’t be so disappointing.

The funny thing, looking back on the hour meeting, was how upset the doctors seemed to be that we weren’t ecstatic that we had the Answers in our hands.

I mean, to be fair, there were Answers. Some 30-plus recommendations of things to try. But so many of them were like, “Hey, teach the Captain about the ‘Stop,Think, Do’ protocol.” Really?  You think if it didn’t work in first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade and now eighth grade, that next year it will magically work?

The tests revealed that the Captain has good executive functioning and understands theory of mind well. I shared that with the school psychologist who has dealt with him for seven years, and her comment was, “He has NEVER been able to do those things. Ever.” The recommendations are for him to be in a social skills group. As the psychologist said, he was in them for five years and never internalized a crumb. So…what does this mean???

We had to laugh when the doctoral candidate who did the screening shared how she had just said, in a conversational interlude with the Captain, that one of her pet peeves was people cracking their knuckles and THE NEXT THING he did was start cracking his knuckles for the rest of the session. Oy. Welcome to our world.

And the fact that he tapped “Axel F” through the day. On the table. All. Day.

So we will share copies of the 30 page report with the school, the counselor, the wraparound agency and see who thinks they can help. Good luck, folk.

Another thought that’s crossed my mind is to sit down with the Captain and find out what he wants us to do. Since we seem to be much more invested in making him live up to his potential than he is, maybe we’re just ruining our own lives. If he really doesn’t intend to make any effort over the next four years, then should we really beat ourselves up and spend hours at medical offices trying to make him better?

When is a young person able to make these decisions? According to Pennsylvania law, “Minors ages 14 and older may consent to outpatient mental health examination and treatment without parental consent or notice.” So he can opt out any time, I guess. (Not that I’ve told him about this provision, of course. But someone will at some point. Then he’ll club us to death with it.)

And someone call Fox Mulder. Because the truth–and the Answer, apparently–is still out there.