Archive for the ‘Things that give me hope’ Category

Retail therapy

My middle guy is now a high school freshman!  (Yikes!)  One of the many new things he’s doing is the high school percussion ensemble.

And what did this mean for me?  Dun dun dun….. shopping with my boy!

He needed a black sports coat, black pants, a white shirt, a black tie, and black dress shoes.  We had the black dress socks covered.

Shopping with him is an interesting experience, even when it is an in-and-out trip.  9/10 times he disappears and I spend more time looking for him than I do what I’m shopping for.  I am not good at measuring and estimating sizes, so I just knew this would take for-EV-er!!! We have to try on half the store!  But I need not have worried- we had a great time!

We went to our local Haggar outlet store. The assistant manager, “Janet,” took one look at my son and guessed his size immediately.  What a time saver!  We quickly found a dress shirts in his size.

My son quickly got into a routine.  He’d go in the dressing room, sing to himself, and take too long his time putting on the clothing.  Then, he would come out, and say, “How do I look?”

He first time he came out of the dressing room, he was wearing a white dress shirt with his blue t-shirt underneath.  I didn’t correct him because I thought this was a good indication of how his dress shirt would fit over his undershirt. We found one on super sale, thanks to Janet.

On to the next item on this list. The first time he came out to model black dress pants, I noticed they looked bulky.  I discovered that he kept his shorts on underneath the pants.  I said, “Sweetie,  you need to take off your shorts, so that we know that you pants fit correctly.”

“But I kept my t-shirt on when I tried on my dress shirt.” (Good generalization!)

“Yes, but you will wear a t-shirt under your dress shirt.  You won’t wear your shorts under your dress pants.”

“Oh, I get it!” he said, as he went back in to the dressing room.

The worker quietly chuckled. She told me she thought he was cute.  I smiled, agreed with her, and tried to wait patiently and not tap my foot too much.

He came out and said, “How do I look?” and it was a perfect fit.  I asked him if he’d like to try a different style, so he could see which was more comfortable.  He was more than happy to do so.

He went back in, put on his regular street clothes, came out of the dressing room, and said, “How do I look?”

Puzzled, I said, “You have your regular clothes on.”

He looked down at his clothes.  “Oh! Never mind!” he exclaimed, and he went back in the dressing room.

We laughed so hard!

We left the store with a black tie (I found one that is machine washable!), black pants, and a white shirt.  We kept shopping until we found everything.  We went to three stores that day==.  Yes, THREE.  Our cousin went with us to the third store.  That’s another blog post.  It was fun!

As I reflected on our day, I realized that our day was truly “retail therapy.”  My son learned about generalization, practiced fine motor skills, and learned how to interact with sales personnel. We worked on manners.  But most of all, we enjoyed one another.  After a very stressful time in our family, that was very therapeutic! I look forward to more days like this as he grows and matures, and that gives me hope!




Showing off his temporary license after the exam.

Showing off his temporary license after the exam.

After a year of practice, two rounds of driving school, and two driving exams, we not only have a high school graduate, we have another driver in the house!

The day of his second test, we ( my middle guy, and I) piled in the car and and my oldest drove first to a practice course in the city.  We practiced parallel parking, which was what “got ‘im” on the first test.  I coached him from outside the car (and made him put his window down so he could hear my harping coaching) and made him do it correctly 12 times before we drove on to the Department of Transportation for the exam.   (Yes, there was something in it for me and my husband.  We were very tired of driving him back and forth to work.  Those 3-11 shifts were getting old. So I was invested in this test!) Not to be left out, my middle guy found branches and kept putting them in the parallel parking spot and instructing his brother not to run over the sticks.

After correctly parallel parking 12 times, my oldest drove us to the testing place, and while he took his test, my middle guy and I went inside the building to renew my own driver’s license renewal and to get my younger son to get his state-issued id.   I kept looking behind me at the door to see if my oldest would walk in, triumphant or dejected, however the case would be.  I was somewhat of a “nervous Nelly.” I  I must have missed him, because when my younger son and I walked in the picture taking room, there sat my oldest, waiting for his picture for his new license! We celebrated as we three got our pictures taken, then we went out for a celebratory lunch. (We discovered right away that we were also entering the new realm of setting up curfew!)

What a day.  My oldest PASSED HIS DRIVING TEST!  On to independence!!! 🙂


Ladies and gentlemen, we have a high school graduate!

Walking in line at the graduation ceremony

Walking in line at the graduation ceremony

It has been a long road, but it has been worth it.

Our oldest (my stepson), who is on the autism spectrum, graduated.   He got his actual high school diploma, and is looking toward a bright future!  Hopefully he will be attending school in January, as space becomes available at a special school here in PA called The Hiram G. Andrews Center.  Not only will he be able to get an associates degree, but he will also continue to learn independent living skills at this residential school.  Yes, residential! We are all excited for this!  🙂

But more about that later.  Right now we are basking in the excitement and the glory of his graduating from high school.  I have not told his story on this blog in order to protect his privacy, but it suffices to say that, when I married my husband, my then little 3-year-old stepson was not expected to ever be independent.  There are many reasons for this, but we are so thankful that he overcame all of those obstacles!  Here’s a little of his educational story:


Celebrating at the graduation party!

Celebrating at the graduation party! Not so little any more!

  • Entered school for the first time at age 9, as a third grader (when he came to live with us).  He didn’t know all of his alphabet or his numbers.
  • Caught up to 3rd grade math, after not knowing all of his numbers, by 5th grade.
  • Was in special education most of his school career.  However, as a senior, was in a regular senior English class!
  • Graduated on time, with an 81 GPA!

When my oldest crossed that stage at the graduation ceremony, my younger boy called out, “It’s been tough, but your made it.  Go, big Brother!”  And that sums up how we all feel. He has overcome much.  We, as a family, have overcome much.  And we are looking forward to what God has in store for him.

Congratulations, buddy.

Ok, who is this kid? Music makes a difference.

As I posted previously, my son plays in the bell choir at our church.  It’s a good way for him to be part of a group, learn to take direction, and make music– one of his passions.  (I give great kudos to his hand bell choir director, who has learned how to work with my boy and been very patient. I bet he was a great band teacher and school administrator prior to retiring!)

The bell choir plays about 4 times per school year.  Usually, I am my busy self and it dawns on me the Saturday afternoon before the Sunday morning performance that my son needs to have his clothes, shoes, etc. ready.  More than once we’ve had to run out at the last minute to get him dress pants or shoes that fit.

This time, however, was different.

I reminded my son, “Hey, remember what tomorrow is?”

“What?” he replied.


“Oh yes!  Mr. F. wants us to wear green.”

“Yes, we are supposed to dress like it’s spring.”

“Oh.  Well, I don’t think you have anything green.”

“Yes, I do.  I am going to wear my Hawaiian shirt because it has green in it, my light brown pants, my brown dress socks, and my dress shoes.”

Waaaat???  Planning ahead?  My son?

After I recovered from the shock, I asked him, “Do you have those things ready?”

“I’ll go up right now and get it ready, Mom. OK?”  He ran upstairs to his room.

“Ok,” I replied. I had to sit down.  This was amazing.  I had this feeling of relief that I didn’t have to do it, but at the same time I felt a sadness that I wasn’t as needed. But mostly I was relieved.

A few minutes later, my son called from upstairs,

“Mom, I need to go out to get a new belt.”

“Why?” I called.

“Well, does my blue belt match my Hawaiian shirt?”

Okay, by this time I was about to faint because never has my boy cared about matching.  But I recovered quickly, and said, “Yes, the belt matches.  There is blue in your Hawaiian shirt, too.”

“But Mr. F says green.”

“I don’t think Mr. F. cares about your blue belt.  He said ‘spring,’ right?  Not just green.”

“Yes!  Okay, thanks, Mom.”


My boy proceeded to lay out all of his clothes, including his socks, shoes, and belt.  The next morning we were actually early for the dress rehearsal because he was ready in record time.  He even complimented someone at church on their shirt.

Double huh.

Music makes him want to prepare and get up in the morning. Music is helping him be independent.  I have hope that my husband and I may indeed be empty-nesters.  And that’s a good thing!

Expectation, crying, and a call from the school

At 7:30 AM,  my son’s learning support teacher called. My son, P,  was very upset and crying.  She was concerned, as this was the second time she had seen him cry in three years.  He said he would feel better if he could talk to me.

The issue: his older brother M did not wear a coat to school.  (Also, another kid reported that M and another student hitting P while on the school bus. So she was going to report my older son and this other kid for bullying on the school bus.  But P. was mainly upset about the coat issue.)


As my husband listened in, I consoled my boy. Here’s a snippet of our conversation.:

Me: Hi, sweetie, what’s wrong? You were crying?

P: Yes.  M. did not wear a coat to school! And Dad told him to.  He needs to listen.

Me: He didn’t wear his coat?  And that upset you? Well, he does that sometimes.  It’s his decision.  It’s weird, but it happens.

P: Yeah.

Me: I’ll have Dad talk to him about it, ok?

P: Ok.

Me: Was M hitting you on the bus, sweetie?

P: Yes.

Me: And who else?

P: “Jake.” (name changed)

Me: We’ll take care of that too.

P: Ok.

Me: Is there anything else? Do you feel better?

P: I feel better now.

Me: Ok, sweetie. You have a good day.  You can start your day over right now, ok?  I love you.

P: I love you too, mom.  Bye.

My husband and I looked at each other and took a deep breath and sighed. My husband said, “Oh, boy.”  I shook my head.  We were  upset by the bullying and that P. didn’t report it himself.  P. was upset by the coat.  So there’s two life lessons that P. needs to learn: letting people make their own decisions and standing up for himself.

I am so grateful that other students were looking out for P.  I’m grateful for an understanding teacher.  I’m most of all grateful for a son who knows that he can call me if he has a problem and for teachable moments.  And this gives me hope.



I originally posted this in December 2010 when I started this blog.  I wanted to share it again for Thanksgiving.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

“I am thankful for making words.”

I read this and froze in my tracks. My son wrote this on his construction paper “leaf” at school for Thanksgiving 2010.

I began to remember all the times we wondered if he’d ever speak to us.  I remembered when he was three years old and, putting him to bed one night, he said, “I love you” to me for the first time.  I cried, and told my husband and called my friends and family, even though it was late.

I recalled how we used to not give him anything he wanted, putting everything out of his reach, until he would say the word for the item.

I remembered how his only words were echolalic terms.  He would only repeat or “script” words from movies, books, and songs.  I remembered how happy I was when he told me the first time, “I want…. Daddy?”, as if he were unsure he could want Daddy.  I remember (as does my husband) how I unlocked the bathroom door where Daddy was… um… busy… because Philip used a complete sentence and expressed that he wanted someone he couldn’t see for the first time!  Philip stayed in the bathroom with Daddy until Daddy was done.

I remembered how we slowly and painstakingly helped him ask questions and request what he wanted, how we used and are using sentence starters to help him have conversations with friends, how we role played before social situations what he could say when someone asked him such things as “How are you?  Do you like school? What grade are you in? How old are you now?”

And, more recently, I remembered with tears in my eyes how happy I was when I asked my husband if he would put Philip to bed and Philip said, “Daddy, tell Mommy no.”  How he answered me now when I asked him how his day was or what he wanted for dinner.

Philip wrote, I am thankful for making words.

I am thankful, too.

Middle School Dance

My son came home from school on a Friday and said, “I’m going to the dance.”

I very intelligently replied, “What?”

I tried to get him to see that he would be safer better off and I would worry less he would have more fun if he went to a family game night with us.

No way. He said the dance would be fun.  He needed $4.

My interrogation began. Who would be there?  Did he know what happened at dances?  What friends of his were going?  Would his learning support teacher, Ms. H., be there?  He was quite tired of my questions until I asked him one that he knew.

“When does it start?”

“6:30.  And I want to be there early.  They’ll have snacks.”


I told my husband that our boy was going to the dance.

He replied, “But he doesn’t have any  money.”

“I’ll give him the money,” I replied.

“But sweetie… I’m concerned.”

“Me too. But our boy is asking to do something that other middle schoolers do and I want to support that.”

So we agreed to let him go.

I drove him to the middle school.  We stood outside with a group of very loud kids until the doors opened.  And yes, I walked in with him. And yes, I spoke with the principal and I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Ms. H.  Yes, I made sure I had “spies” to give me a full report of what happened and yes, I made him tell me my cell phone number three times in case he got bullied and needed to come home. And yes, I did leave.  And YES, I did worry.

Turns out he had a great time.  He, like most of the middle school boys, simply walked around the dance floor eating candy and drinking soda.  He told me he danced fast and he danced slow.  And he told me that he wants to go to the next one.

My boy is growing up.  He cares now about doing normal middle school stuff.  He’s becoming independent.  And that gives me hope.

Netflix addiction

Hello.  My name is Elizabeth.  And I am addicted to Netflix

Specifically, I am addicted to the show Bones.  It all started when I was enticed by a web ad for free Netflix.  I wanted access to movies for the class that I teach, so I subscribed.

And then the journey down, down, down began.  See, not having cable / sattelite/ dsl tv, I was enslaved to an old fashioned antenna for many years to satisfy my tv watching pleasure.  Netflix opened up a whole new world to me.

First, I watched two seasons of The Killing in 4 days.

Then, I found Hot in Cleveland and watched all the episodes in one week.

Now, I am addicted to the show Bones.  Supposedly it’s a big hit show in its 7th season or something.  But I am on Season 2 and working my way through each episode.  After I get my Wildtree calls done, I can watch up to 4 episodes… per day.

And you know what, dear reader?  I think Temperence Brennen has Asperger’s.  Just sayin’.  And she’s a hero.
So I have renewed hope here!  My boys are awesome!  And my girl can kick butt, even thought she’s not a spectrum kiddo!

And now, I must go… I have to find out if Brennen and Booth will solve the next case and admit they they love each other.  Shhhhh….. don’t tell me!!!!!!

A New School

Well, my oldest son has started a new school.  So far so good!  After encountering disciplinary issues, academic issues, and other issues we won’t get into here we decided to look elsewhere.  Our journey finally brought us to Pathways.  It’s a private, Christian vo-tech school that just opened in our area.

My son decided to study Culinary Arts. The upside is that he’s learning to do things that will serve him well in the job market and in his personal life.  Believe me when I say that I don’t know of any girl past or present that would put up with his former sanitation habits.

The downside is that he’s trying to take over my kitchen again.  I let him try to cook dinner one night and it didn’t go well.  Despite frustrations all around, we all ate and were satisfied and lots of lessons were learned:

  1. Don’t assume that just because it’s a dish he’s cooked before that he is ready to cook on his own.
  2. We need guidelines as to what is really clean.
  3. Creative left overs are a good thing.

But most importantly, he has found a place that accepts him, that he looks forward to going to everyday, and that empowers him to believe in himself.  And that’s a good thing… that gives me hope!

Instantaneous McDonald’s support group

One day during my kids’ spring break, my daughter and I went to Meadowbrooke Gourds.  (I’m letting you know this because it is an awesome place and I want all of you to know about it.)On our way home, we stopped at McDonald’s for lunch.

As we were eating I noticed that people were watching this man who was not “normal” and acting a little wierd.

I looked over.  It was a young man who was obviously on the autism spectrum.  He was verbalizing, flapping, pacing… funny, I hadn’t even noticed until I realized that other people were staring.

Funny what I get used to, I guess.

I said something to my daughter, and she looked over.  We agreed that the man had autism.  I started watching him, not out of “rudeness” but out of concern.  I suppose my mom instincts kicked in.

A woman in line called to the man and instructed him not to beat on his chest.  He stopped.  I knew he was not alone, so my daughter and I went back to our lunch.

As we were leaving the restaurant, I stopped by the man’s table.  Turned out he was  22 and was out with his grandmother.  I explained to his grandmother that I had been watching him out of concern due to my being a mom of two boys on the spectrum.

She gave me a big hug.  She said, “We all have to stick together!”  We talked for a few minutes until the man decided to walk out of the McDonald’s on his own (typical… for us, at least!).   She ran after him and my daughter and I went out to our van.

We were buckling our seatbelts and I heard a honk.  As the grandmother was driving away, she had looked for me and honked in support when she saw my autism awareness sticker.  I waved and noticed that she had a sticker, too.

I really hope I see her again.  Our walk for autism is coming up on April 14th.  Since she’s in the area, maybe she’ll be there.

I was grateful for our encounter.  I have hope, because the young man reminded me of my own son.  May we all experience love and support in the unlikeliest places.