Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Stroll Down the Road

It was Joey's turn for a break, a quick stay at Grandma's. Joey did great. Grandma's house is nice and quiet, and Grandma is particularly good at letting Joey take life at his own pace. He played in Grandma's truck and with her new cat, take a nice bath, and had a generally good time. I arrived nice and early to take him home after his breakfast, as he prefers. We were worried he might get anxious, but everything seemed great. Grandma put Wubbzy on the TV via Netflix/Roku so we could review the visit and talk about the upcoming school meeting.

Unfortunately, the connection out there s a little slow right now for reasons unknown. Every few minutes, the movie was interrupted to "load." The third time, he ran for the door (leaving it open enough for the new cat to sneak in).

I was prepared. When Joey runs at Grandma's, he runs for the car; so I left the doors unlocked and a toy for him to calm down. I cut off the conversation, packed up Joey's bag, helped mom put the cat out, said goodbye, and headed for the car. I put the bag in, looked in the back seat with a friendly greeting, and...

No Joey.

He wasn't in the back of Grandma's truck. He wasn't in the garage. He wasn't answering to my calls. I ran back to the house, shouted into the door that Joey was gone, and ran down the driveway. Whenever I could get him to take a walk at Grandma's, he always preferred to stay on the driveway- a nice, clear line and path to follow. I made it to the circle, and down the road a little way, with no sign of him. I turned and ran back to Mom's. Maybe she had found him, he was just hiding in the back bedroom, or behind the house.

"You you have him?" she called as I appeared. No, I don't. I don't have him. He's gone.

Those are not words you want echoing through your head.

I hopped into the car. "Keep calling," I said, I suppose to my mom, "I'm going to see if he followed the road." I started down the road, watching the woods to either side, for any sign of him, praying he had gone this way, and not into the woods to the river. Please be on the road. Please be on the road. Please be on the road.

He had gotten about 3/4 of a mile down the road. I turned the corner and saw him, and he looked glad to see the car. He was hot, tired, and scared. He had probably met a number of dogs along the way, which would have sent him into more panic, and sped him along the road. If I had tried to continue to look for him on foot, he would have gotten out to the main road, and we would have been in more serious trouble. All the way back to Grandma's, he told me how he had gotten off the road whenever a car had come.

We got a lot of hugs when we got back to Grandma's. And a drink. And more hugs. And now I have him home, with our double-key locks, set up with his computer and his brother. And I'm looking up GPS.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Painfully Obvious

There are those moments in life when you not only realize your mistakes, understand the real consequences of them, and know without a doubt that you are, at the core, a bumbling idiot; those consequences are presented to you in such a way that makes them so palpably and undeniably real, that you wonder how on earth you could be such a bumbling idiot and know that there are some mistakes you can't go back and really fix. It is in those moments that you know that people do really depend upon you, and that sometimes, you let them down; and it is in those moments that screaming is probably the only appropriate response- even those in that moment, that is the one thing you can never do.

One of those moments came at us on highway 50 on the way home from Ocean City. We're damn lucky it didn't come at us at 55 miles an hour, because somebody would have been seriously hurt.

When Joey's ESY meeting was held, and we saw the options, we saw no good ones. We settled for placing Joey in the summer enrichment program designed for regular ed students with an aide, with the "everything's going to be fine speech" tossed in, and then 2 weeks of OT tacked on. We could have sent him to a camp an hour away with a trip home in heavy traffic. That was kind of our only other option, and that would have replaced the OT, not the Summer Scholars. They were dead set on putting him into that summer scholars thing.

We weren't comfortable. We had been told there might be 40 kids in the class, but "everything will be OK, because there will be two teachers, and we'll transition Joey to the new school and new teachers" by having two weeks with the old para, then two weeks with one of the new special ed folks each week. The realities of the program were that it was a large, noisy group with two field trips a week- one in-town, one in Richmond- our para got usurped by another special ed student who was put into the program as a regular participant, most of the kids seemed to shun Joey whenever I saw him and were unfamiliar to him. We already were having increased anxiety issues as Joey realized he was going to be in a new school and not have his same teacher and para anymore- the point of putting him in the program was to decrease that anxiety, not increase it. The reality was instant and dramatic increase in anxiety, depression, and the associated behaviors such as bolting and self deprecation.

When we saw the increase the first week, we were told he was getting settled, give him more time. I should have pulled him.

When he really freaked out the second week, we sang our own praises in figuring out the CD player and getting him through the long field trip and the noisy days. I should have pulled him.

In the third week, when I got the note from the new aide that Joey was having trouble, but that she was sure "Everything would be OK", I should have pulled him.

By the fourth week, it was too late. I should have pulled him anyway. By then he was bolting almost daily, sometimes multiple times in a day. At any frustration, he was saying he was a bad person, he couldn't be a good boy, and that no one liked him. He was saying that people thought he was ugly and mean, but he was really a nice boy. He was saying he was stupid and clumsy and he waned to die so Andy could have a little sister. He wanted to break things, he wanted to kill me (when I didn't give him his way), he wanted to kill Andy (when Andy was annoying him), he wanted to die. Everything was most definitely not OK.

The beach trip he looks forward to every year was a series of struggles to get him to do anything new, sprinkled with familiar favorites to coax him out of the hotel room- some of which failed to do so. He was bolting there, too. Do you know how hard it is to lock a hotel room door from the inside, to keep someone in?

Then, just before the bridge on our way home, it happened. He was frustrated, tired, annoyed, hungry, cramped in the car, feeling the anxiety of heading home and who knows what else was exploding in that head of his. He was done, he was leaving, goodbye! And he opened the door.

Fortunately, we were in a traffic jam, so the car wasn't moving very fast, but folks, it was fast enough. A sharp cry from me got him to close the door, and JoeyAndyDad found a place to get off the road pretty quick. We engaged the child safety locks, got everyone calmed down, and started off again.

I dont think I need to go into the "might have" situations here. Thank God, none of them happened, we just got the door shut, the locks engaged, and no one was injured in the process. The tacked on OT turned quickly into a blessing these lat two weeks, as Miss Lisa got to see what has occurred, and put together a brilliantly clear letter about the issue of bolting and that this is a dramatic and new behavior, as well as the self- deprecation issues. On Tuesday, I get to sketch out the consequences of not providing Joey with appropriate ESY.

I get to look straight into the face of the consequences of not holding my ground and fighting, every single day. This is what happens when I fail him.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nature Adventure

The other failed attempt to get Joey to a boat ride was our now-traditional Assateague Adventure, the boat ride out to the island to get your feet sandy looking for nonexistant seashells. I didn't really blame him this round. JoeyAndyDad wanted to sleep in, a luxury equated with things like hot showers and glasses of wine to many of us, and the boys were up and bouncy. We had a coupon, and I thought if I managed to shuffle the boys out, the other adults could have a nice, quiet morning. But then Joey staunchly refused to go, so he got to stay in the room with Dad, and Grandma came with us on our adventure.

In the rain.

Fortunately, it wasn't pouring, but it was grey, misty, damp, and by the end, definitely raining.

As usual, we took a ride through the fishing docks to look at the boats, then out to the island. In past years, we've had really good sightings of the ponies. This time, we learned that ponies are smart, and know not to wander around scrubby little points of island in the rain.

So we grabbed our net and went ashore, where Andy promptly ran off and mixed with the tons of other people who had come. There was an unusually high tide, so there wasn't a lot of space in the area we were permitted to wander on (much of the island is protected, so you can't just roam anywhere).

We did manage to see a hermit crab, and Andy found some bluecrab shells that were probably shed by growing crabs. One very excited young woman actually caught a small fish in her net, so Andy got very happy about seeing a real live fish in a net. Mostly he liked wading around with the other people and trying to catch stuff and talk at the same time. He actually got a bit grumpy because he didn't get to catch a live crab or fish himself.

He did, however, catch himself some seaweed. And insisted we take the crab shells home. They're downstairs somewhere...

Then the rain started rolling in at a decent clip, and we washed off our feet and got back on the boat for the ride back to port.

On the way back, the guide shows off aquatic life, having the kids help by showing live creatures to the rest of the audience. We got to see spider crabs, whelks, clams, starfish, and a horseshoe crab. Andy got to help with the starfish. He was a good helper, and very proud of himself. He really liked the excursion, despite it not having toys or pirate gold involved. Unfortunately, the picture they take when you get on the boat, we didn't get to buy, because the guy can't print and stuff in the rain.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Yo Ho Ho, To Sea We Go!

One of the great adventures we planned was a pirate adventure, aboard the great Duckaneer! Unfortunately, this was one of the side trips that Joey staunchly refused to leave the hotel room for. In fact, he refused to go on any boat rides, saying they were scary. So we left Joey in the hotel with Dad and Grandma, and Andy and I went pirating!

We arrived to explore the docks, and Andy was very excited to see live crabs on the piers. We also discovered a place to get shirley temples, an office with stuffed sharks on the wall, and the gift cart. Oh, and a place to buy a hat for Mommy, as we realized there would be little shade on the Duckaneer.

We were soon off to find pirate treasure! The treasure in the end turned out to be, as Andy suspected, small toys. The folks were very generous with letting all the kids have a handful of treasure.

They were also very clear about the fact that everybody would be getting wet. They are serious. Don't go on pirate adventures if you are afraid of getting soaked to the bone. After all, there are ten water canons on the Duckaneer!

The boat is wonderful. Andy thought it was amazing. There is a big pirate map painted on the deck, and the folks are in costume and character. They sit the kids around the map and spin a wonderfully fun yarn about the adventure. Parents are encouraged to participate in everything, too.

Andy loved the map. He started looking for the "X" right away (there isn't one- the adventure is more adventurous than that!) He especially liked that the places marked on it were places we had talked about and been to, such as Assateague Island.

Andy was soon ready for high adventure! He actually sat and joined in the story, and really got into the whole thing. He had some trouble now and again with processing instructions, but overall, he was having a glorious time as a salty sea dog. Yo ho, Yo ho, a pirate's life for me!

Andy manned the canons when we first got on, but in the thick of the battle against the enemy pirate, he spent a lot of time just trying to avoid being soaked. He was actually pretty successful. The enemy pirate would also reach in and grab shoes off the kids' feet, and Andy was very proud that he didn't lose his shoes (they all reappeared in the treasure chest at the end of the adventure). He did get a few good squirts in, though.

Here's the map on the deck.

It really is a fun thing, and worth the money. The folks that run the thing make it lots of fun, you get lots of toys, and you also ride around the bay and see Assateague. The pirate battle lasted a good long time, and everybody got into it, adults and kids alike. After the battle is won, they have games and dances for the kids to do on the way back to port.

Also, what is a pirate without his mustache, beard, and tattoo? They had quick "facepainting" which involved drawing two lines for mustache, a line on the chin for a beard, and an anchor on the kids' arms for tattoos. Oh, and one pirate ran around doing the same to the adults. I managed to avoid being mustached and bearded. Andy, however, hopped right into line. He got excited because they ran out of blue pencil, so he got to have red instead.

That's my little pirate! Arrr, Matey!