Precarious Joy

chris.JPGIt’s not every eighteen-year-old guy who decides to take his sister to prom …. Then again, Chris isn’t your typical eighteen-year-old guy. And this isn’t just any sister … it’s the sister he hasn’t seen for six years for reasons beyond anyone’s control. Except perhaps the PA Juvenile Court System. But this is a day for joy, and so let’s not muck it up with the details, shall we?

One of the few things both the judge in Michigan (who granted our adoption) and the one in PA (who presided over our case when Chris was 11) agreed to was that once the minor children turned 18, it would be up to them to decide whether to get in contact with their birth family members.

On his 18th birthday, he was on the phone with his first mom. I dialed the number for him. And when it came time to choosing a prom date, there was one girl he most wanted to spend it with. And they both look happy, don’t they? Continue reading


A Mother’s Day Wish

When your child turns 18, is he (or she) going to be able to connect with family members that have not been in his life for a long time? If you’ve already been through it, what advice would you give to those who are anticipating this milestone?

Life on the Road Less Traveled

flowersSo last night just as I was putting dinner on the table, Man Boy galloped through the kitchen, into the dining room, and sent a plastic package spiraling toward the table. “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom,” his voice trailed off as he galloped upstairs to the sanctuary of his room.

My annual white roses had arrived.

Now, I love getting flowers, and white roses are my particular favorite. (Mom got some pretty ones from my sister in New Hampshire, too!)

The thing is, this weekend is prom, and Chris is taking someone we haven’t seen since we moved here from Pennsylvania. When he turned 18 he was allowed to reconnect with his birth family, and so this seemed to him  like a good way to go. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. But it’s time to start letting go, and letting Boy Man turn into Manly Man. Make…

View original post 224 more words

Life Juggles: Multigenerational Family Edition

3gen.jpgWhat do you do when your husband calls in the middle of a work-related event, in Chicago, and says that your mother needs help getting on her jammies, in South Bend?

Why, you ask to speak to your daughter, of course. “But she’s already gone to bed,” he hedges nervously. I can’t see his face, but I can read the subtext clear as day: “PLEASE don’t make me go in there!” (*sigh*)

“Put her on the phone, honey.” Noises and loud protestations ensue in the background. True to form, said teenager comes to the phone snarling. “WHAT?!”

“Sweetie,” I say through clenched teeth. “Do you remember the talk we had before I left that you needed to help get Mammie ready for bed while I’m gone?”

“I’m sleeping.”

Time for the big guns. “So… You want DAD to go down there and help her get dressed? How do you think Mammie will feel about Dad seeing her bra?”

Continue reading

Alone Again … at Lunch

schoolchildren circleEarlier this week at “Life on the Road Less Traveled,” I wrote about our recent drama concerning a child’s repeated requests to come home from school. Honestly, if I picked her up as often as she called home, she’d be out of school more than she was in.

Which would be just fine with her. For her teachers, and for us, not so much.

After some careful deduction, tracking the time of day these requests tend to arrive, it seems that lunchtime is particularly stressful for her. Like many schools in this area, Penn works on an alternate day schedule, and she has an extremely small circle of friends … so every other day she sits alone in the cafeteria. I can see why that would be upsetting. But I just don’t know what to do about it.

She won’t join a club, or choir. (Though she has a spectacular voice.) So it’s kind of tough to expand her social circle.

She refuses to go up and introduce herself to someone else sitting alone. (She thinks they will laugh at her. Which they might, but they might not.)

She doesn’t want to role play. “MOM! I’m not STUPID!” (Okay, then.)

She actually thinks she has a friend who has the same lunch, but the cafeteria is so big she is overwhelmed and can’t find her. (Penn has 2000 students, so it would be tough.)

Her teacher of record and I are trying to find a way to help her stay in school … yet I feel so bad for her, that this is such an anxiety producing situation that she feels physically sick at the prospect of eating lunch. When I was her age, I remember sitting by myself a lot … but I didn’t mind. I’d go to the library or some other favorite haunt with my book, and be happy. That’s not a solution for my daughter, though, who is “allergic” to books.

Social isolation can be one of the hardest parts of raising special needs kids, I think. We want them to feel happy, accepted, and safe … and yet so often the world feels like a big, scary place to them. We try to coach them from the sidelines … but ultimately what they need most is an understanding friend.

Lord, please send her an understanding friend. And have her stand behind Sarah in the lunch line, so she doesn’t have to go looking for her.

Amen? Amen.

Have you ever experienced this with your kids? What solutions have you found that worked for you?


Small Victories are Sweetest

“It’s not where you stand, but what direction you are moving” was the apt backdrop of the 17th Annual Work Experience Banquet at Penn High School.

As I looked around the room, I saw my children’s  “village”: special needs teens who, just for tonight, were the achievers. Tomorrow they would go back to the struggle, just trying to eke by to get a high school diploma (if possible). But tonight, kids and parents faces were alight with pride.

Mr. Mott, who has been running the dessert “banquet” celebration for many years, did not sugar-coat his comments, but spoke from the heart for each student. “This one wasn’t sure he wanted to work here at first, but by the end of the year he was glad he tried it!” And “this student never gives up, always looks for something more to do.” Very specific and sincere. Sarah’s was, “When she shows up, she works hard and the cafeteria staff are always glad to see her!”

Sarah’s eyes grew as big as saucers. “Really? They LIKE having me there?” She trotted up to get her award, smiling shyly. Then, when the video featuring all the students began and she realized she was the first student featured, she covered her eyes and laughed. “They told me I was in this … Wow!”

When you are raising kids with “invisible” special needs, it can be rough going at times. You listen and try not to envy the moms whose kids score athletic and academic scholarships, who get into their first or even second choice of schools. You listen as they regale the group with stories of their kids going off to prom, or flash their senior pictures. And you wish with all your heart you had something to contribute to the conversation.

But tonight, just for a moment, we all stood tall and proud. And it was glorious.

Sincere thanks to Mr. John Mott, Mrs. Virginia Shafer, Mrs. Patti Walton, and to all the Penn High School staff