Friday, August 27, 2010

"We're Not Taking Him Back"

When Jordan was little, my parents often invited him to spend the night at their house just a couple blocks away. My mom had a special room decorated for her grandkids, and it was a special treat to watch movies, eat snacks, and just be with Grandma and Grandpa.
On one particular sleepover, my Dad awoke in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. This in and of itself was not unusual--he is a grandpa, after all. It was a little weird, though, that he decided to use the bathroom in the hallway instead of the master bath. On his way to the bathroom, he noticed a faint "glow" coming from under the specially-decorated-grandkid-room door. Upon opening the door to determine the source of the glow, my dad immediately noticed Jordan was not in bed, and there was a fire under the bed.
After "lights out" Jordan had decided to read himself to sleep under the bed.
With the lamp for light.

But the lampshade didn't fit under the bed, so Jordan had removed the lampshade.

Though a significant hole had been burned all the way through the carpet, pad, and subfloor, miraculously, Jordan and the bed both remained intact. Jordan never even woke up.

As I recounted this amazing story of survival over dinner with my married siblings later that week, I pointed out each detail that led to the blessing of Jordan's survival:
  • Dad had needed to go to the bathroom when he did and not any later

  • Dad decided to use the hallway bathroom that was farther away than his own

  • In his sleepy state, Dad had noticed the glow from under the bedroom door

  • Jordan hadn't been burned
I went on and on about how our little Jordan must have a mission here on this earth to still be with us. I even saved the light bulb as a gentle reminder of the precious gift that is Jordan's life...

Then my oldest brother added his two cents and snapped us all back to reality.

His only comment was, "The Lord and angels were up there saying, 'Oh no you don't! You promised to take this kid, and we're not taking him back!'"

It's nice to know Jordan has angels.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

School Shenanigans--the keyboard

In eleven years of schooling, we have come to know Jordan's teachers, principals, admistrators, school office staff, school counselors--you name it--quite intimately. I think it was 5th grade when when Jordan happily hopped in the car after his first day back at school and proudly announced, "I haven't been called down to the principal's office yet this year!"

His big sister just rolled her eyes and said, "What about this morning?"

I felt just as deflated as Jordan was his shoulders sunk and he replied, "Oh yeah. I forgot."

So we began taking it in stride that we were on speed-dial for nearly every adult in Jordan's schooling career, but I still cringe every time the school phone number shows up on caller id.

This school shenanigans story doesn't take us as far back as elementary school. This happened just last year--ninth grade.

It was a Wednesday, I think, because I had been thinking how far we'd made it in a week without any calls from school, when the phone rang. I looked at caller id, and paused, wondering if I should pretend not to be home. I went ahead and answered in my cheerful, pretending-this-was-going-to-be-a-good-call-voice. It was Dean Diane. I could tell by her voice she felt more badly for me than for herself that she probably called me more than her own mother. We went ahead with the formalities of setting up yet another RPC (required parent conference).

What was it this time?

Keyboard shenanigans!

Jordan had entertained himself in computers by re-arranging letters on the keyboard!

Dean Diane assured me that Jordan had not done anything TOO horrible, but, since he'd "messed with" school property and could have caused damage, she had to bring it to my attention. She was pleased, it seemed, that Jordan hadn't spelled any bad words with his key arrangement.

I wasn't really questioning Diane, but I figured Jordan hadn't openly and eagerly admitted guilt, so I went ahead and asked, "How do you know it was Jordan?"

With a sweet, knowing smile, she replied, "Jordan re-arranged the keys to spell his own name."
I didn't ask if there were any other Jordans at the school.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Best Advice I Never Got

If I could give any advice to a parent of an Aspergers child, it would be this:

There isn't a professional out there who knows your child better than you. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for getting all the help and tips and advice professionals have to offer! At the end of the day, though, you are left to filter through everything and basically figure out what does and doesn't work. The truth is, unless you have lived 24/7 with an Aspergers person, and regardless of degree or expertise, you just don't "know."

I'll never forget the words of advice from a school district "professional" just before kindergarten. Part way into Jordan's second year of preschool I was asked by a teacher with 20 years experience to take Jordan home and not bring him back. I was told Jordan "refused to follow rules, clearly didn't want to learn, and was intent on destroying things." I bundled Jordan up, apologized lamely, and went to my car and cried. I wish I'd had more courage to stand up to that teacher! Instead, I promptly contacted the school district where Jordan would be entering kindergarten in the fall, and arranged for the testing that the ancient preschool teacher had recommended.

I couldn't really explain to the district tester what I was doing in his office--only that my son was different and I was worried about his ability to succeed in kindergarten given that he'd been kicked out of preschool. I was overwhelmed with this child I didn't understand and who wasn't doing anything "normally."

The short version is that Jordan tested above average in every area, and I was sent home with these haunting words that remain tattooed on my heart to this day, "There is nothing wrong with your son. You just need to take him home and love him more."

Yet another excellent opportunity to smack some not-so-well-meaning "professional" missed!

Funny how more than ten years down the road, thousands of dollars spent, too many medications and special diets tried, every wacky technique implemented, several parenting classes and seminars attended, countless harsh and angry words that I can't take back screamed at the top of my lungs, no less than 25 books read on the subject, and heaps of guilt piled like hot, stinky manure upon my shoulders, I have come full circle. Yep, Jordan is different, but there is indeed nothing wrong. "Wrong" is the wrong word. I don't exactly know what the right word is to describe Jordan, but I know for sure nothing is "wrong."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Rocket Safety #101

When Jordan was about 8 or 9 he came home from school with a rocket he'd made in science class. It was just a harmless little thing made from a film canister and alka selzer.

Being the fully supportive family that we are, everyone gathered on the driveway to watch Jordan "launch" his rocket. Jordan carefully placed the miniature rocket in the middle of the driveway while we all stood far enough away (for safety sake, of course) that we could barely even see the rocket.

We waited...

and waited...

and waited...

Jordan assured us that the rocket worked perfectly when his teacher demonstrated it, so we continued to wait.

Just as Jordan knelt down to inspect the malfunctioning rocket, darn if the thing didn't launch right then--smack into his forehead!

Again, being the fully supportive family that we are, we all witheld our laughter for at least 3 1/2 seconds--almost enough time to determine that the rocket hadn't hit anything vital, like an eye.

Lesson learned.


Less than 24 hours after Jordan's first near-death experience (as death relates to rockets, anyway, since we'd lost count on actual near-death experiences), Jordan came home from his after-school science program with a REAL rocket. It was so exciting because this thing was, like, 2 feet tall, with a launching pad and all! The launching mechanism required one of those huge square batteries, so it was clear this no alka-selzer rocket wanna-be.

Sadly, the weather wasn't going to cooperate with us that day, so I explained to Jordan that we would all go to the park as soon as the rain let up. I really wanted Jordan to have a good rocket experience after the previous day's mishap, be we would have to wait, and I would have to look at his sad little face for a good 24 hours at least.

or NOT...

At the time, we had a basement that was equipped with a full commercial bakery. My sister and I had a huge bakery order to fill and were knee-deep in gift baskets when my four supposedly homework-doing children started screaming unintelligabley as they scrambled over one another in a ball of arms and legs down to the basement. Being that all four kids were seemingly on the same team in this case and more panicked than crying, I figured it was something worth looking into. Just as I hurled myself over the shaking kid-mass in the stairwell and began fast-walking (after all, kids can get worked up over little things, so I didn't feel the need to run,) every smoke detector in the house began shrieking all at once. I stepped it up and started taking stairs two at a time.

I was greeted at the top of the stairs by a smoke-filled kitchen. The kids were still a screaming, jumbled, hugging mess several steps behind me and no help whatsoever as I attempted to discern where the smoke was coming from. Oddly, there didn't seem to be any accompanying fire.

As the cloud began to dissipate and the smoke-detector shrill continued, a small, charred, wooden block emerged smack dab in the center of my gorgeous wood floor. This blackened thing looked mysteriously like the rocket launcher Jordan had brought home only 20 minutes before. Yet there was no rocket resting proudly upon it.

I slowly (very slowly since I feared the worst and wasn't entirely ready to face it)scanned from what I now knew to be that stupid launcher all the way up to my 18 ft. ceiling. There, majestically embedded in my kitchen ceiling was Jordan's rocket!

By this time, and with tears streaming down his face, Jordan had worked his skinny little shirtless body between my warm body and my arm. I could feel his chest thumping at what seemed to be double the pace of my own racing heart, and all I could do was hug him tightly. I couldn't even speak, let alone get mad.

Don't get me wrong, it's more in my nature to get mad and yell THEN check for broken bones, etc. This time was different. I just stood there in awe--awe that there was a rocket in my ceiling, awe that Jordan's face hadn't been blown off, awe that Jordan had escaped death.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Starting in the Middle

Not much of what's in my brain comes out in an organized fashion. Everything sounds thoughtful, educated, and eloquent as it rolls through my mind but, inexplicably turns to "wah wah wah wah wah" by the time it escapes my mouth. One would think just understanding this malady would be enough to give me pause before I speak, but nope. Instead, I have just resinged myself to the fact that I will spend a good part of my life reliving the things I've said and imagining how I should have said them so as to have sounded more intelligent, more empathetic, more kind, more...

I was thinking this blogging idea might be a great solution because I could write, read, erase, re-write, re-read, erase again as many times as I need to in order to make everything come out just right. But then again, I don't really have time to make it all sound fancy and educated the way it exists in my mind. So, I'll just start in the middle and see where I end up.

Years ago my parents lovingly gave me a book titled "The Five Love Languages of Children." I think with all their wisdom (and they have much!) my parents determined early on that though they'd raised five pretty great kids, even they didn't have all the answers when it came to my kids, so they offered up good reading in lieu of too much advice.

I'm too lazy to go dust the book off and copy exactly what it says. Besides that, I might go read it and find that I've altered what I thought it said in the first place so much over the years that it doesn't even really say what I remember.

So to paraphrase...

The author wrote about kids being like apple seeds and how it's a parent's job to nurture and raise that little apple seed up to be the best apple tree it can be. It would, of course, do no good to raise that little seed up to be a pear tree because it was never meant to be a pear tree. This child-rearing philosophy was so beautiful, and it made so much sense! I imagined myself being the kind of parent who is herself a pear tree but is fully capable of recognizing that her child was meant to be an apple tree. I would never expect my little apple to produce pears like I do. I would learn all I could about raising apple trees, and I would be awesome at it. I would be proud of my little apple tree, and it would grow to bear beautiful, delicious fruit...

[imagine beautiful music being interrupted by a scratching sound here]

What if your kid is a kumquat?

It may sound fun to raise a cool, exotic, expensive fruit, but the chances of doing it successfully from just a little seed? Kind of daunting. And impossible. You could google it, but you'd figure out real quickly that the climate and conditions a pear tree is used to and understands is nothing close to what a kumquat needs. You'd figure out that no one you know really knows how to raise a kumquat either. Your family and friends would be full of advice and suggestions. They'd offer support when they see you or your kumquat floundering, and they'd encourage you by telling you what a great pear tree you are. They'd even tell you you're doing a great job with your little kumquat, but many days you'd feel alone, inadequate and like a pretty crappy pear tree. You'd question how on earth you, a pear tree, could have borne, of all things, a kumquat. You'd love it because it's yours, but you would wonder if you could ever understand it and appreciate all that it is. On top of that, you'd have to raise other trees which are relatively easy because they are either a pear like you, an apple like your husband, or at the very least, something relatively close that can at least grow peacefully among the apples and pears.

So this blog will be primarily about my kumquat. I still can't tell you how to raise a kumquat, but I have some stories about raising mine. Most of the stories are funny. I'll probably share a lot of those first. Many of the stories are heartbreaking, but I'll share those, too, lest anyone should get the idea that raising kumquats is easy.