Friday, July 11, 2008

In the Rainforest Cafe

As a great end-of-summer jaunt (the boys go back to school on Monday here, Joey for ESY, Andy for camp at his school), we drove two and a half hours one-way to go to lunch.

But this wasn't just any lunch. This was lunch at the Rainforest Cafe!

Folks, you know you've done good with sensory regulation when your kid can actually eat a lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. And if you have one near you (remember, we consider a 2 1/2 hour drive to be "near you"), go. It is amazing.

Andy actually spent a good time under the table. Every, oh, 20-30 minutes, Rainforest Cafe has a thunderstorm, and it scares the bejeebus out of Andy. He takes a few minutes to calm down and regulate, but once he settles, only the storm returns him to diving for cover under the table. Joey just loves it, all the moving stuff, especially the butterflies. They also have tropical fish tanks, and the guys could of course spend most of the day there. Also, the one in Towson has a crocodile at the entrance that fascinates them. Also, they get to order a volcano!

As an added bonus, the food is good and different, and we've been happy with our service in Towson. We're sorry they closed the one in Tyson's Corner, though. That's only about a 50 minute drive.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pride and Joy

So there we were, in the garden of the King's Arms Tavern, ordering lunch.

I am very proud of my boys (did you notice?). They say 'please' and 'thank you.' They can order their own food, and they eat what they order. They stay mostly in their seats, and when they do get up, they aren't disturbing other folks, they are looking at the birds and the plants in the garden. Joey tells the waitress how good his lunch is. Andy shows off his crayons.

It is one of those moments when, at the time, the idea of Joey being "disabled" is left aside, not even considered. That he is autistic is always present, but not really thought about, either. Joey is being Joey, Andy is being Andy, and we are having a lovely lunch together under the grapevines of the garden trellis. It is only now, two days gone, that it occurs to me:


Joey is one of the hardest working people I know, and look at how far his work has taken him! Like other children, he learns to read and write and do math and that sort of thing. History and social studies is a weak point for him, hence the trips to Williamsburg and other living history exhibits and museums. But he has also had to learn how to speak. He has had to learn how to self-regulate in sensory-rich environments. He has had to learn to interact appropriately with strangers. Things that other kids pick up on as they grow up and experience the world, Joey has had to be taught, has had to learn just as other kids learn reading, math, or science- with lessons, with experiments, with carefully constructed experiences and situations and controlled responses. He's had to practice skills that other kids seem to "just know" (which means they were taught at a younger age, or could use and synthesize models of behavior they observed on their own).

And the results of all that work? A lovely lunch in the garden of the King's Arms Tavern.

Most people I would say this to would reply, "well, sure" and give it no more thought. Or they would look at me funny, because don't all kids have to learn this stuff? Shouldn't good behavior be normal? What's so special about eating lunch? And how do you explain to these people the work that went into Joey learning to eat that lunch? The work and support that was invested in helping Joey be able to walk over to that restaurant, sit in the garden, and be able to focus on his food, bite it, eat it? How do you explain what a huge accomplishment this was?

Well, I've found you don't. You folks- well, the folks I know and who kindly comment on this blog- understand what this meant to us- to Joey, to Andy, to me. But for other people, who "just don't get it"? I've found the best thing to just let them know what a gorgeous day we had, and leave it at that. Leave out the hiccups, the small moments of impending trouble that were thwarted and salvaged, and just say, "What an amazing lunch we had. I really love taking my guys on trips." After all, this is perfect truth- and all the information they need or can handle.

But to you guys... look at how far my little buddies have come! I am so proud of them.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: A Trip To History

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Jamestown Rocks

So we went for a big adventure today: Williamsburg. And I decided to spice things up by adding Jamestown to the trip.

We did great. We got down to Williamsburg and found the reinactment in full swing, which meant all the main ways into Duke of Gloucester Street were closed (you're supposed to buy a ticket to watch the programs). However, you can still slip through some of the back gardens and get there, so we did get gingerbread cakes. It was still a bit early to go to lunch (the taverns open at 11:30), and the guys were hot and tired, so I decided to run them over to McD's instead, then head down to Jamestown.

I got so lost, we ended up back where we started, 20 minutes later. So I parked the car (in the exact same parking space) and we had lunch at the King's Arms. Much yummier than McD's.

Then off to Jamestowne! The Jamestown Settlement is the new museum down there, and it kicks ass and takes names. You walk in and its like you're in the forest with the Powatan. They have reconstructed a 17th century English street, a Native American village, and early American homes. They have short films throughout on things like sailing to the Americas, trade and shipping, slavery and the gold trade, etc. etc. etc. It totally rocks. Then you go outside.

Outside they have full re-creation of a Powatan village, Fort James, and three period ships to go on and explore, all with folks in costume doing things and talking about it. they also have a boardwalk about the marshland and why the colonists decided to stay there (in case you didn't know, Jamestown is in a swamp. Williamsburg is a little farther inland, but still surrounded by swamp.) We didn't get to see all of it, partly because we were dying of the heat, and partly because they had to shut down the outside because of a huge thunderstorm. It was done very professionally, and they got everyone into the building before the storm hit. All the living history people then set up inside, and continued to do their thing! How cool is that?

We did get to climb all over one of the boats, which the boys just thought was great because it was obviously Captain Hook's pirate ship. They had the costumed guys in hysterics, racing around saying "I'm Peter Pan!" "I'm Captain Hook!" and pretending to be dancing, singing pirates. Yes, indeed. Them's my boys.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Bugs bugs bugs

I am constantly in search of activities in our area. JoeyAndyDad and I have decided we could make a mint with about twenty acres anywhere in a 10 mile radius of Fredericksburg, because there is actually little within that striking distance. There is no petting zoo, no DinosaurLand-esque parks, no child-friendly museums. I put in some fiberglass models, a few goats with a feeding machine, a small child-friendly museum, charge two bucks, and call it income.

So I was delighted to find The Bug Box. This is a small insect museum/nature center right at Four Mile Fork, which means within our beaten path. We haven't been before because it is only open on weekdays, and up to now, weekdays have been very, very full. It costs $2 per person, and inside is a nice, small collection of interesting live insects, turtles, lizards, frogs, and even a snake. Additionally, the walls are covered in beautiful collections of insects and butterflies mounted for display. In the back is a small discovery room, which though doesn't offer that much in materials, does offer a place for everybody to sit and some bug-related things to look at. There's even a small restroom. Perfecto.

The boys loved it. There were two red-eared turtles they could have watched all afternoon. They both raced around with magnifying glasses, looking at the bugs and lizards and laughing and pointing (well, Andy did the pointing- Joey still doesn't do the joint attention thing that well) and generally enjoying themselves.

Stimey: I recommend the next time you want ants, just get a small fish tank for them. It seemed to be working beautifully for the Bug Box.

So we now have a new rainy-day haven, right here in town, for long afternoons. Now I just need somewhere to go on weekends...

As an aside, this is my Five Hundredth Post. Happy BlogDay to Life With Joey! Oh, and there's new pics of the garden.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Are We There Yet?

We have begun a new campaign- if the guys are good the whole day, they get a sticker; if they collect 21 stickers in a month, they get to go to Chuck E. Cheese. I'll let you know how it goes, as it started today. We had the grand start by showing them they got a sticker for each day this week already, and talked about what we did each day and the good things they did to earn their sticker. I will be refining this program this week to give them a specific task to work on, such as "no whining", "no hitting" and "more sharing" (translate the "no" to "less"). They are given three warnings through the day. Like I said- I'll keep you informed.

Most kids, when bored with a trip, begin the chorus of "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" Joey has discovered a fun variation: "Where are we going? Where are we going? Where are we going?" This is a question, so he would get praise for asking, reinforcing the behavior. It is a question he can handle better, because it begins with a "cue word" (Where?) Besides, the question apparently sounds cool, so perseveration kicks in. He knows perfectly well where we are going, just as other kids know perfectly well that you are not there yet.

"Where are we going?" he pipes up behind me. We have just left the driveway. The car has been on all of thirty seconds.
"We are going to church," I answer with my I'm-Being-Patient Mommy Voice. We could probably walk, but the clammy day and Joey's cough speak against the plan; driving the six blocks it is. There is no backing out. Our Sunday school teacher is on vacation, and I volunteered to teach this week, and I'm by myself. I put the car in drive.
"Where are we going?" he asks again and sighs.
"Church," I repeat. "We have Sunday School today, remember?"
"Where are we going, Mommy?" the other little voice chimes in.
"Chuck E. Cheese!" Joey replies joyfully. They both cheer.
"You haven't earned enough stickers to go to Chuck E. Cheese yet, guys," I remind them. "Let's work hard and earn our stickers..."
"Then go to Chuck E. Cheese!" they cheer together.
This may be a long day.

I've never taught Sunday School before, but it seems OK. I have six kids (summer is here), used to running a bit wild for the hour. We do some singing, then look at the little books we're supposed to read, ad do some coloring. I get some of them to make a paper-plate fish. Time is winding down, and Joey turns to me with a big grin.
"Going to Chuck E. Cheese now?" No, dear. Not today.

The church parking lot is a madhouse, coming and going. The folks from the pervious service are trying to get out, and the folks from the next service are vying for those parking spots. I plead for quiet while I try to concentrate on driving and not hitting anyone- while not being made into a bumper car ourselves. Joey is chanting one of his usual perserveration phrases, "anseeDAdeeanseeDAdeeanseeDAdee..."
"Please be quiet so I can focus on the road," I plead again.
"AnseeDAdeeanseeDAdee..." I need to take a lesson from Maddy and get some earplugs. We narrowly miss being hit by a LandRover.
"Mommy! MOMMY! MOOOOOOMMMMEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!" Andy squeals suddenly.
"Yes, dear?" I try to hold on to my temper as we avoid a silver Cadillac.
"I'm bein' quiet! I get sticker! I go Chuck E. Cheese!"

Yes. And we haven't even eaten lunch yet.