Sunday, January 15, 2012

Red-Headed Stepchild

Jordan's first encounter with a red-headed kid didn't go so well.

Apparently for the first time in his life, at sixteen, Jordan finally met a kid with red hair.  Having no first-hand, face-to-face, experience with red-headed kids, Jordan drew upon the only information about red-heads filed in his brain.   Upon meeting "Red," Jordan blurted out, "I oughta beat you!"

Jordan seemed genuinely surprised when "Red" not only didn't laugh, but got a little upset.  After all, any time Jordan had heard the phrase "I oughta beat you like a red-headed stepchild!" while growing up, it was at least followed by a chuckle, if not a laugh.  And here was the perfect time to use the long-stored phrase--upon meeting an actual, honest-to-goodness redhead.

"Red" wasn't chuckling.

And he demanded to know why Jordan wanted to beat him up.  Rolling his eyes, Jordan asked if "Red" was a stepchild to which "Red" responded in the negative.  Understandably, both boys were confused and more than annoyed at this point.  After mulling the situation over, Jordan asked if "Red" was adopted.  Apparently, in Jordan's mind, adoption is the next best thing to having step-parents, at least as far as trying to resolve the issue at hand was concerned.  As luck would have it, poor "Red" was indeed adopted.

So, in answer to "Red's" question, "Why?" Jordan shrugged and said, "That's why, then, 'cuz you're adopted."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

No I Didn't!

Jordan's initial response to just about anything is "No I didn't!"  I think that's because typically kind behaviors don't come naturally to Jordan the way they do for most of us.  Though he doesn't want to be mean or unkind, he can come across that way with his lack of natural kindness. This results in lots and lots and lots of discussions about what is kind behavior and what is not.  Today, explaining to Jordan that what he had done WAS kind took just as much effort as explaining why some things he does aren't kind...

Having been sick in bed most of the day, Kacey didn't get to eat dinner with the family.  When Kacey emerged from her room awhile later, Jordan asked if she would like him to make her a plate of food because the rest of the family had already eaten.  This seemed quite out of character for Jordan, so Kacey brought it to my attention.

Being impressed with Jordan's thoughtfulness, I wanted to praise him, so I asked, "Jordan, did you offer to make Kacey a plate of food for dinner?"

"NO!" was the response--as if he had stopped listening after "Jordan, did you..." and he was being blamed for something he didn't do.

Knowing Jordan hadn't grasped that I was in the process of praising, I got a little more specific and asked if, when Kacey got out of bed, he had offered to get her some food since she had missed dinner.

The clarification did nothing other than make Jordan more specific with his response which was, "NO! I did NOT offer to make her a plate of food.  I told her that her plate was at the table and she could go make herself some food."

This was one of those times where the connections just weren't coming together.  Because Jordan had assumed whatever I was asking was a result of some misdeed on his part, it didn't matter what I said.  He was bound and determined to deny.

Why would someone deny a good deed?  Doesn't make a lot of sense unless you live with Jordan.  It all goes in the same bucket as not making the connection that someone crying might be sad or someone making a stern face is upset. The version in Jordan's brain didn't match the story we were telling. 

But I know.

And Kacey knows.

By the end of the whole "incident," Jordan was genuinely confused that a kind gesture had come naturally to him, but he managed a smile that seemed to say, "I guess I did good." 

Next time I'll just say, "Hey, Jordan, good job!"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Genius Savant

The other day Jordan helped a neighbor move.  Being kind of new in the neighborhood ourselves, we didn't really know the neighbor, but when Jason learned he needed help, Jason readily offered Jordan's services.

Jordan was the only helper that day.  Jason and I were working and taking the girls to their various activities, so it was just Jordan and a 60-something year-old man.  The neighbor knew nothing of Jordan prior to their day together--just that Jordan was a 17 year-old 175 lb. kid who could probably help lift a few things.  So, for several hours, it was just Jordan and Darnell, a U-haul, and a few trips back and forth.  I would have liked to have been a fly on the dashboard of that U-haul!

Jordan has enough social skills to know not to comment on Darnell's color.  He learned that social skill the hard way when he called a black friend "Nigger" in 9th grade.  To this day, Jordan cannot understand why black people can call other black people that name and be joking and having fun, but when Jordan uses that term, he gets sent to the principle.  Regardless, we were certain color would not come up.

I didn't waste any time worrying about Jordan and the neighbor.  Maybe it was because the neighbor was moving anyway.  Maybe it was because the help was free, so a little enlightening conversation in Darnell's day should have been okay.  After reflecting on his offer of his child's free help, Jason asked me, "Do you think it was okay for me to send Jordan with a virtual stranger?" Hmmm.  Why didn't we think of that before?  I don't know, but the story of "The Ransom of Red Chief" came to mind.  For those of you who don't know the story, to summarize, a little indian was kidnapped and ransom was demanded.  The little indian kid drove the kidnappers so crazy that, by the end of the story, not only had the ransom amount been reduced again and again, but the kidnappers begged to PAY the Indian Chief to take the indian kid back.

I got a call or two throughout the day from Jordan.  One was when Darnell drove into a gate downtown and the police were summoned.  The second was when Jordan wanted to know if I was interested in the salon pedicure chair Darnell offered Jordan as payment for his help. Nothing out of the ordinary for Jordan.

A few days after the move, Jordan asked me if I knew what a genius savant was.  I asked why he wanted to know.  Then Jordan told me about a conversation he and Darnell had.

Darnell: "Why do you think so much?"
Jordan: "Because I have autism."
Darnell: "Oh.  Well you are a genius savant, then, cuz you sure ain't no idiot savant!"

Then Jordan said to me, "I just wondered if you knew I was a genius savant."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Who?

After a Trunk-or-Treat reprieve last year, the Smith Family was back in full force!  When we decide to do something, we're all in, and this Halloween was no different.  We decided to transform from the ordinary Smith Family (seriously, anything more ordinary than "Smith?") to the Whos from Whoville.

With the help of Kacey's awesome new convertible, some fake snow, the Grinch soundtrack playing in the background, and a little Who Magic (for the hair, because this kid of awesome hair is only possible with magic) we were a big hit at our ward trunk-or-treat. 

We got a few confused looks from little kids who thought maybe we were confused about which holiday we were celebrating.  It probably didn't help that Kacey handed out candy canes (thanks, Sam's club, for rushing into Christmas before we could even say "boo"), and that I said "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Halloween" to everyone.

When Jase posted this picture on facebook, he added the comment, "Looks like Mrs. Who has the hots for the Grinch!"  He's right :o)

I LOVE that Jason is such a good sport.  He makes a pretty great Grinch! Jase practiced "Grinch" phrases and did a great job of trying to steal children's candy.  In true Grinch fashion, Jase even taught one little Batman and Robin brother-due the words to "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells."  One little girl cried when she saw Jason the first time around.  The second time she came by our car she said, "Hurry, Mom, before the Dad comes back!"  The truth is, I was probably more grinch-like when I wouldn't let him put his green-grease-paint arm around my waist for this picture because my white shirt was new.

Happy Who-lloween!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Favorite Holiday!

I'm not sure when it happened, but Halloween has been my favorite holiday for years. It's possible that my love for candy corn is responsible, but it could also be that Halloween marks the time of year when my home transforms and takes on new life every month from now until spring.

I've been wanting to revamp the black feather wreath I made several years ago, and I couldn't wait until October.  I got several ideas from pinterest (my new little buddy) that I wanted to incorporate.

The first was this one:

It's a great cheap way to make a wreath HOWEVER, it wasn't a great solution for the wreath I made because it wasn't strong enough to hold everything without losing shape.  After the first wreath, my daughter and I made two more smaller ones, and the tubing worked okay.

After duct-taping the wreath, I made a witch's hat out of some felt and black fabric I had laying around.  I tried to hot-glue it to the wreath.  OOPS!  The glue melted the foam in record time!  I ended up just pinning things or using skewers to attach things to the wreath.

Next I dug through an old costume box for a pair of tights.  I cut off about a foot and stuffed each "leg."  For subsequent wreaths (since I didn't have any more tights, I cut each leg in half and sewed up the sides, creating a much skinner "leg" which I actually like better.

I tied each leg to the bottom of the wreath like this:

I thought the hat looked a little boring so I found a purple flower and some halloween ribbon to spruce it up:

I came across this skull at Michael's and attached it with a skewer:

I just kept digging through Halloween boxes and craft supplies to see what I could come up with.  I found this cute little guy and gave him an instant makeover with some glaze I had laying around and some glitter.  I think you could even just brush elmers glue or modge podge on the pumpkin and glitter it up.  I didn't care about the face since it wasn't going to show:

The finished product actually looks a little better in real life, but this is the best photography I could do with my phone:

I found clear glass bulbs in my Christmas supply and glittered them up.  After I attached everything I wanted, I took two black feather boas (from Michael's) and wound them around the wreath.  I also found ribbon and tulle to cover the spots that the boa didn't quite cover.  VOILA!

Notice how the weight of the wreath sags? :(  Kacey and I made two more just a little smaller and with other items we'd found either laying around or at the craft store.  I like these much better but Kacey has to take them to work.

The best part of the project, believe it or not, wasn't even getting an earlier start to my favorite Holiday.  It was spending the time with my daughter creating something awesome!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Young Women--Crazy Week Survival Kit

I love love love my calling to work with the Young Women.  I love the calling because I love those girls.  I feel geniunely blessed to know them, and to be part of their lives.  Just as with my own kids, my heart hurts when they are struggling.  This week is going to be particularly crazy for one of my laurels with her responsibilities for homecoming and student council, early morning seminary, tennis matches, and SATs.

I remember how overwhelming weeks like that felt in high school!  I hate that any of the amazing youth have to feel so overwhelmed!  I know its necessary, and I know they will survive, but I wanted to make it a little easier for this girl this week.

Given that it's Sunday, and I don't have much in the way of cool things just laying around, I did what I could to create a survival kit.  If not lighten her load, hopefully it will remind her she is loved.  At the very least, I hope it gives her a good laugh or two...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fateful Joyride

As usual, Wednesday morning started early.  4:45 to be more precise.  Typically, Kacey works her way through my darkened room to hug me before heading off to work, and I nudge Jason into taking Kennadi and Jordan to seminary.  Wednesday was different.  Kacey burst into my room to ask, "Where are Dad, Jordan, and my car?"  Thinking Jason and Jordan had run to fill up Kacey's car with gas for her, I called Jason to find out where he was.  From the downstairs family room where he had fallen back asleep after getting up too early, Jason groggily answered, "the couch."

That set off the alarm bells in my heart and head and my next question set off the same alarm bells for Jason, "Where is Jordan and where is Kacey's car?" To which Jason answered, "I'm up!"

We couldn't begin to imagine how the day would unfold as we hastily made plans for getting everyone where they needed to be and proceeded to guess where Jordan could be and why. 

The girls and I knelt in Kennadi's room where we said a prayer asking for Jordan's safety.  The timing of that prayer and the events we would later discover were more than coincidental--remarkable, really.

With Jordan's autism spectrum disorder, we have become well aquainted over the past 17 years with impulsivity and Jordan's inability to think things through to logical conclusions.  It is impossible to explain to outsiders how such an intelligent and often engaging person as Jordan can do things that the rest of us would immediately recognize as stupid, harmful, selfish, dangerous, or just plain crazy.  I can't make sense of it myself.

We knew this was one of those times.  It wasn't the first time, but we feared it could be the last time.

Within a half hour of our prayer, we received the following call from a Good Samaritan who had been immediately behind Jordan on the road.  In California.  Over three hours away:

Your son veered off the right side of the highway, hit a burm, and over-corrected.  He then crossed all lanes of traffic, and rolled the car twice.

The next call was from a paramdic at the scene who informed us they were life-flighting Jordan to a head trauma center in San Bernadino.

These are phonecalls parents never anticipate.  Absolutely everything else in your world gets pushed so far back in your brain to make room for the images of worst-case scenarios and feelings of hope, desperation, worry, and fear to consume every square inch of space.  My heart and brain were out of sync, and I felt disconnected from the person making phonecalls to family, and making arrangements to get to California. 

Without an extra car, and due to the early hour, we decided it would be best if Jason just started driving to California so I could stay in Las Vegas to make necessary arrangements for the girls.  We were blessed to have a friend loan us a car.  One less thing to worry about.

My morning felt rushed and filled, yet I was getting nothing accomplished.  I couldn't fill the minutes and hours that dragged on with anything of use as I awaited, and at the same time dreaded, news from Jason or the hospital.

Two of the first phonecalls and texts I received were from my mom and a sweet friend, both of whom went straight to the temple on our behalf.  Both of them said the same thing--that they felt peace.  As long as the day was, and as slow as the passing of time was, I felt peace as well.  Thoughts of death, brain damage, long term disability, etc. continued, but they weren't scary to me, and I was able to have the thoughts without dwelling on them.  Two quotes I recently read came to mind:

And this...

Though a storm was raging, I was incapable of calming myself, and I was receiving no calming news, I felt peace.  I have pure gratitude for those who prayed on our behalf to enable that peace to envelope me.

Upon Jordan's arrival at the trauma center, the only news we received was that an MRI had been performed, and the results would be another hour or more. 

More waiting.

Far away.

Unable to control the outcome.

Finally, as Jason's long four hour drive came to an end, and he arrived at the hospital, we received the news that the MRI was completely normal.  There was no internal bleeding.  There were no broken bones.

I am speechless.

How does one walk away from an accident like that all in one piece?!?  My mind struggles to comprehend, so I won't try.

I will just be grateful. 

Grateful that Jordan has survived.  Grateful that Jordan was blessed with a sister who won't spend the rest of her life plotting revenge.  Grateful that the bills from this incident won't arrive until I've had time to process everything.  Grateful that I continue to stand and remain somewhat sane.

Now several days have passed, and I've had time to feel all the emotions that raged within me that day and the days following the accident.  I have begun to recover from the physical exhaustion that resulted from the emotional toll.

Life goes on, I guess.  It must because the little jokes we always manage to make after times like these (laughter is how our family deals with our crazy) are beginning to emerge.  The words of my wise older brother spoken years ago when Jordan survived sleeping under a burning bed come to mind, and I tried to reason that his survival meant Jordan had a mission here on earth to complete.  My brother said:

The Angels are up there saying, "WE'RE NOT TAKING HIM BACK!"