Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Back to the Car wash

Peter's love for the car wash is intriguing. He can spend hours slowly painting the soap all over the car, inside and out. Meticulously applying the soap in a circuitous motion, round, and round, and round. without a break for hours, until enticed to come inside, usually to eat, which of course, he would announce firmly that he was not hungry, he had more important things to do by washing the paint off my car. A tiny Mexican stand off, and than he would agree that he the car wash man needed a break, and I thinking, so does my car. He also learned the fine art of washing the inside, and snuck that in whenever the gatekeeper forgot to lock her doors. If you would be my passenger today, you would notice streaks of soap near the vinyl or is that leather on the door. Remnants of a Peter wash. The one item that Peter really refused to do was the rinse, lessons in rinsing were tossed by the wayside in order to put the focus on the wash. So the numerous demonstrations were for naught, and not to be used, if only be the overseer.
As he grew, he decided to make car wash signs and sit at the edge of the driveway in hopes that someone would provide him with a car to be washed. He would print with a magic marker on a old piece of cardboard car wash signs that also contained other words such as Sara, mike and mom, grab a lawn chair, and sit for long periods of time by the road. Infrequently, a youngster would come along and offer to help, but the young neighbor boys patience for the carwash did not equate to Peter, so he would move on to other boy play. On occasion, an extremely good hearted neighbor would leave their car for the afternoon, and Peter would wash. I, always on the outlook for their return, was in charge of the rinse. The good hearted neighbor would than give Peter a dollar for his efforts. For Peter, it was not about the money, but all about the joy of the car wash.
Now, you would think that Peter should be employed at the local car wash. Makes sense, doesn't it. I actually think Peter would do well under supervision at a car wash, as long as there was a rinser involved. However, you can not pay or coerce Peter into any car wash where you sit inside your car while it is being washed. If one drives into a car wash, Peter has his hand on the door and is ready to bail the minute the car stops. Because I could not always plan my car washes without Peter, he established a short term relation with the attendant at the local car wash connected to a gas station. I went in, gave a brief explanation of the concern, and the attendant would engage Peter for the five minutes it took to wash my car. Peter always obliged by filling his arms with items from the small gas grocery store, you know, the ones that are double the price, and I always obliged the man's time by paying for everything Peter decided he needed during the car wash interval. I guess you could say it was a sort of pay it forward kind of watch my child, I shop your store. We were the proud recipient's of gas station cookies, soda, really any junk food you can imagine. It was usually dinner that night.
SO the car wash serviced our neighbors, kept Peter busy, and made us new friends at the gas station. All good things that came out of something so the car wash.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The DInner Date

The Dinner date ended up at our favorite small Mexican restaurant. Peter did have a moment of indecision as to whether we would be visiting McDonald's or IHOP, however, when I mentioned Los Comprades there was no doubt in his mind as he loves to go there. Having taken Peter to Mexico to visit our friend's Betty and Humberto (who we lovingly call the Mexicans) and who live on a ranch (AKA a 600 hundred year old hacienda that spans probably about 6 city blocks), Peter has developed a love for anything Mexican . While driving in the car, he will scan the radio stations until he hears music that sounds like he was in Mexico visiting Betty and Humberto. So we drive, and listen, and sing, because we do not speak Spanish we just make up our own words to the songs, singing and laughing, we elicit fond memories of our trips to the ranch. When it comes to eating Mexican food, we have standard criteria when choosing the restaurant. English must not be spoken there, and if it is, it needs to be the kind of English that invokes in you a sense to speak louder and over pronounce your words, thinking this will make the waitress understand the word "T-A-C-O. Of course, we do not to that, but there always is this sense that if we would shout and over pronounce we would get our message across. Other criteria, includes tele-mundo in the background, a jukebox that contains the latest Mariachi music, and tacky decorations. Cleans works, but the other criteria are of utmost importance in the selection of an authentic Mexican restaurant. Oh, yes, and I almost forgot...we want to be the only gringos in the place. A moment in time, in space, a slip into our visits to the Zaragoza's, can almost feel it!

So, off we went to get our fix of Mexican food. Peter, loving the chips and ordering an hamburger...okay, so he is not so good at tacos and I ordering my favorite shrimp smothered tostada. Peter watching tele-mundo and swaying to the music from the jukebox. Squeals again are immersed through the chewing of the chips and the music. A big smile remains throughout the entire experience. Feeling just peachy..although a bit too early for one of those Peach Margerita's.

Satiated, that would be over satiated, as we already had Hors'devours at church, we leave. Peter skipping to the car. I feeling relaxed and sunny as if I just spend an afternoon in the laid back version of life on the ranch. One day, I hope to take Peter back to the ranch. He loved the incredibly large door that was next to impossible to move....he tried and it did keep him occupied for hours. And for our next dinner date.....we will see what luxurious restaurant will appear on our agenda. Maybe Chinese....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Commercial Break

I just got a call from Peter. Just to keep you updated, Peter and my routine generally goes like this. On Sundays I pick Peter up for church at 10, must be 10 as we need to get to the church on time to get a table and adequate refreshments. Peter, who loves the snacks always needs to be reminded to take only three, and I am running behind him, sneaking around the already packed kitchen, repeatedly saying, only three Peter, only three. Peter, reassures me that he knows to take only three snacks, I know, I know he says,, and than when I am not looking and reminding, he fills his snack plate to overload, and walks to the table. What was that you did not understand about the three. After which time I spend the rest of the service placing the objects of food in front of his face , making sure he fill his face with snacks, all the ones he took, heaven forbid I would leave a morsel. To be honest, Peter who is all involved in singing with his hands raised, may be seen with a banana in one of his hands.

Following church, we will occasionally find a breakfast joint, grab some eggs or pancakes, and head out. Why, because it is fun and obviously not because we need to eat again, as we are still stuffed from the muffins and cookies. But it is part of our routine and also the reason I am ten pounds overweight.

So yesterday, I get a call. A very important call from Peter. Peter usually calls me about three times a week to make sure I will remember to pick him up at ten, that would be ten on the dot, no later. So, I was expecting the usually reminder call, when Peter, in a very grown up voice, asked me if we could go to Dinner after church. Dinner? Yes, Dinner after church. Of course, my mind is scrambling, thinking what supper club is he talking about. Dinner equates to mash potatoes and gravy, a real sit down thing, waiters in nice outfits. What could he mean..dinner? at noon? Now, the older two, dinner would mean the nice Italian restaurant downtown, but Peter who only eats grilled cheese and french fries is now requesting a dinner? Quickly, thinking on my feet, Dinner, sure do you want to go to Dinner at Danny's (the local breakfast joint) or IHOP. Peter's response was...oh you pick...Either one would work for him...that is his dinner. Okay, so I can do dinner, noon tomorrow, can't wait. Why, because for Peter it does not have to be some magnificent glorious restaurant that may break the, it's the simple things, the enjoyment of just going out. It could be Peter it's dinner!
Dinner it is.......I can hardly wait!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Car Wash

So what does one do when he has tired of flushing toilets, opening and closing garage doors, and running away....he washes cars. I really do not remember what caused Peter to become totally enamored with car washing, but I would have to say it is his all time favorite. Just a few days ago, while shopping at Target, I noticed Peter standing wishfully in front of the car wash supplies, coveting a new shamie. Not today Peter, put it on your birthday list. That of course was my method of procrastinating the purchase, as you see, we have been the proud owners of many shammy's who have saturated the laundry and spewed suds all over as shammy's in Peter's hands become laden with soap.
Reflecting, I will guess that I got a brainy idea one day that if I gave Peter a bucket of water with a touch of soap he would stay occupied for a period of time by washing my car. I was correct in that gut instinct as Peter could and still can spend hours in applying soap to a vehicle. Peter will meticulously apply the soap in circles, painting a white scene on the side of the car. This "painting" of soap can take literally hours and in the moment, he is immersed with the activity. However, he is not so hot on the rinsing part, but the applying....superb. Incredible amounts of soap will be placed in effort to clean.
Why the tons of lather, you ask? Harmless, you are thinking. Let me fill you in on a few details. Peter's idea of filling a bucket with soap and water meant that he would empty the entire bottle of Dawn into the pail . No amount of demonstration regarding "a drop" would change the behavior. In an effort to not travel daily to the grocery store to buy dish soap, I hid the bottles of detergent in areas I believed Peter would never find. Above the refrigerator, above the stove, in pots and pans. If I could find a good hiding spot I used it, as in time, Peter's dish soap radar always found my spots. Interestingly, occasionally, I still find an errant bottle of Dawn which appears in the most interesting location. During those days of playing hide the dish soap, .I cannot tell you how many times I resorted to Tide to clean my dishes, chagrined, as I was not going to the store. Reaching under my sink for the soap, it would be MIA and a cry of "Peter" slipped from my voice. Too late and too tired to go shopping, Tide was the dish soap for the evening.
Initially, my car washing idea was to do this event together...a bonding experience per say, with Peter washing, and I helping, and the end result...a nice shiny car. The perfect Norman Rockwell painting on a sunny summer day. However, because Peter loved the experience so much, he did not want to wait for the Norman Rockwell sunny days. Peter wanted to wash cars everyday, all year long. Basically, Peter followed the same behavior he did when he played the run out of the back door and go hide in a neighbors door frame when it came to car washing. With his bucket brimming with soap, and I in the bathroom or otherwise occupeid, Peter would go out and wash my car. He washed all my cars...minivans at the time so well, the paint was danger of coming off. Because of his rinse issue or lack of finishing the job, I also became at frequent flyer at the local spray car wash, no matter the time of day or night. Peter was so good at the sneaking out, that he could apply the soap, return inside, and appear as if nothing happened. Many mornings, as I was leaving for work, did I realize that my now burgundy car was white. Usually, cutting my time close, I prayed for rain on those days. And if people stared, no big deal, I just smiled and waved...if they only knew, I thought!
One of Peter's "best jobs" was the night his bro and his bro's date agreed to watch Peter for me while I left for a few hours. I am not sure how much watching was going on as when I returned late on that cold frigid night, there stood Mike's girlfriend's car...looking like a Lemon Meringue Pie, completely covered in white frozen soap. Now there is a way to get to a girl's heart. Luckily, Mike's good friend worked at a gas station with a car wash that stayed opened you where that date ended.
Peter's love for car washing remains to this day. And so, a new theme to wash theme.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Almost Forgot Skiing.....

Getting off the Special Olympics theme and in the midst of a potential computer crash, I was looking through my pictures and remembered that Peter also took up skiing...briefly, at a very early age, and than once when he was older.

Peter, being the youngest, was packed along with the other kids into the mini-van and spent the next 8 hours driving north through snow and winds, to end up at Powderhorn mountain. This was an annual event with our friends the Ehlers, where we spent long hours driving for a two or three day weekend of skiing. We always ended up at Big Powderhorn Mountain, as we loved the day care and even more, the Big Bird Chair Lift. Because we showed up every year, the grandma type day care person, there must be a better name for to know us and we and the kids looked forward to seeing her. For an incredible price, the kids could spend the day in the daycare center, watch movies, eat, and receive two free ski lessons while, we the adults took in our annual dose of skiing and hot cocoa. That would be hot cocoa with just enough peppermint schnapps to make you feel warm and cozy. At the end of the day, we would retrieve the kids and join them on the Big Bird chairlift for the annual parent-child run. The thing about the Big Bird Chair lift was it was kid sized which meant it hit you right above your ankles at mid-calf. So when you sat your anny fanny down, you needed to be quick and expect a bit of a drop from standing to sitting, as that was a long way down. Once, as an adult, you maneuvered yourself into the seat, off you went with your toddlers, etc in tow. There was just something about that chairlift, that even as I am writing...I have a smile on my face and am envisioning laughter, sun and fun. It was always sunny of the Big Bird hill.

Now, Peter, being the youngest, was just part of the gang and he ended up in daycare with the other kids, and when he was old enough and had developed enough muscle tone, he also participated in the ski lessons. So, at a very young age, he went onBig Bird and skied down between our legs. Thinking back, that was pre-phobia time, where he just was put on the lift without a concern. We, of course, holding onto him tightly, as we went up the mountain.

As the older kids grew, the trips to Big Bird were replaced by other types of family vacations such as scuba diving until the year we decided to go out West. Peter at that time was about junior high school age, and we found an outfit in the Colorado Rockies called Breckenridge Outer Education Center for skiers with disabilities. So off we went, Peter enrolled in this high level ski school. Walking into the building I was extremely impressed to see individuals who were blessed with a missing extremities, or lack of vision, or cognitively impaired. All skiing, having a great time, and overcoming any challenges they were facing. Why, there was even a Special Olympics ski team. Seeing this was so exciting!

Peter, all signed up, was left for the day in the hands of two Physical Therapists who were going to teach Peter to ski the big mountain. No small task for someone who had developed various fears by this time. At one point, I received a call, that Peter was shaky, but a bit of food and some hugs changed that. Finally, at the end of the day, there was Peter, the two therapist at his side, skiing down the hill! Triumphant, as if he was showing Sara and Mike that he could be just like them.

That was the only time Peter skied on that vacation as we moved to other areas, and truth be told, I think Peter was exhilarated by his accomplishment, but glad to hang at the condo. If I lived closer to Breckenridge, I would sign Peter up for more lessons. I think he would make a great bunny hill skier. Maybe someday we will return. I am just pleased that Peter overcame many fears that day...the big chairlift being one of them and he accomplished skiing down the very large hill. In his own way, he was very pleased with himself and endless praises throughout the week were lauded around him. Way to go Pete! We spent about three days at Breckenridge and throughout the experience there was always a skier next to you with a special need, it may be the skier was blind, or in a wheelchair, or skiing with one leg...whatever...really cool to experience this. Just another visual of those with challenges overcoming!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Big Bird

When Peter was a baby he did not need or require a "beek blanket" or special animal as did Sara, Mike, and most kids. For Sara, it was a yellow thermal blanket, which I bought a large supply and replaced when one was worn, and for Mike, it was a sturdy teddy bear named....quite out of the ordinary...Teddy. But Peter did not have a need to cling to anything at an early age most likely due to his poor small motor movement and his inability to cling to anything.
It was not until around the age of 3 or 4 that Peter became interested in one special item. Coincidentally, that was also around the time of the talking stuffed animals, such as Teddie Ruxpins which was now owned by his older brother. It was also during a time when we were desperately searching for some toy to occupy Peter's time. He was not a TV watcher...could have been a visual thing, he did not build with Lego's...could have been a small motor thing, he was in his running stage and I was becoming in much need of anything that would keep his attention for at least some of the time. And then there was Big Bird.
Big Bird, if you recall, was also a talking animal that I think must have weighed ten pounds itself, for when I carried Peter and Big was an armful and heavy. And for years, they were a twosome. What Peter loved about Big Bird was his fascination with his talking beak. Remember the autistic like behaviors that Peter possesses...well, a talking mouth is somewhat like a closing garage door or a toilet that has been flushed. After we realized the connection between Peter and Big Bird we thought we had hit the sanity jackpot! My only mistake, was not to buy every Big Bird at Toys R Us. Because Peter so loved his Big Bird, Peter went through them every several months and we were more than willing to oblige in replacing the coveted animal. Peter would sit and watch the mouth for hours, but than grab the mouth for hours. Peter loved Big Bird's plastic hands so much that he actually broke down the plastic, and yes, Big Bird ended up in the bath and pools and wherever Peter could find water. Realizing this, I also should have bought stock in Fisher Price, as we were one of their best customers during those years. For years, the two of them were BFF's and in our house, BB's relativity was elated to the highest of standards. We all understood the importance of his presence in Peter's life and his ability to occupy Peter's time.
Eventually, FP decided not to make Big Bird anymore and with this realization, came panic. I had many talks with customer service, explaining my need for the Bird. They helped me hunt down the last of them, and soon I resorted to calling any second hand toy store asking about his presence. Pre-eBay days, so that option did not exist. Finally, there were no Big Birds left in the country, and an silent fear was settling in at the Labanowsky's. The last Big Bird did not talk anymore, there were no hands, and dirty???? Oh my gosh! Dirty and stinky! Time to move to Big Bird Heaven.
We huddled, discussed, and came up with a new plan. Fortunately, around that time...maybe this was a window....the Teletubbies arrived and Peter developed a very basic interest in watching TV. For some reason, although, probably a teen by now, he loved the Teletubbies and the gibberish. So, we found a talking, Dipsy. One that if you pushed his stomach, he spoke some language that made Peter laugh and love him. And so the story goes, no I did not learn, and yes, we replaced as many Dipsy's as Big Birds, only this time I could use E-bay when Dipsy's was not manufactured anymore.
Today, underneath Peter's covers, lies the last of the Dipsy's. His antenna oddly sewn on many times, and his voice activated stomach, now defunct. But when Peter meets up with the Dips, the affection displayed to that..what is it anyway..not an animal..oh that's right..a teletubby is awesome. Peter holds and rocks Dips, gently kisses Dips, and literally squeals with delight. Watching Peter elicits this warm fuzzy feeling inside me. I cannot help but laugh and just feel good all over. Again, freebie....lucky me!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Polar Plunge.

One thing I know for sure, and that is, if Peter was not my child, I would not have ever done or considered doing the Polar Plunge. Who, at my age, would consider jumping into a freezing cold lake in the middle of February?
Several years ago, I was approached to first contribute, and than asked if I would consider participating in the the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics. My initial response, was "No thanks, but I will donate." After a bit of soul searching, I realized I really did not have a reason not to do the Polar Plunge. Physically, I could do this. Sure, it would be cold, and talk about a bad hair day...but I thought about all the people who live with disabilities, whatever the disability could be...some of these individuals struggle every day, they may be in pain, and the majority of the time, a smile is present on their face. So, a little uncomfortable coldness, and drippy looks were no reason to not participate. I signed up.
Now collecting money or asking for sponsors turned out to be fairly easy, as I have extremely generous friends, but also, when I asked my friends to join me, they were very willingly to donate in place of jumping as they said, we will cheer you on from the sidelines. So fortunately, the year I jumped, I was graciously rewarded with donations. That made the experience even more sweet.
I jumped for Peter and all his friends who participate in the games and all his volunteers who coach and help at all the events. Was it cold? Very! Did the majority of my toenails break in half because they were frozen...yes. Did it take all day under many blankets to warm up. You, betcha! The most interesting phenomena that occurred was after I landed in the water. We jumped off a pier into water that was over our heads. When I came up I experienced an amazing sense of calm, and felt no need to move, until I heard the four paramedics yelling to move, swim. Later, under my ten blankets I googled this phenomena and learned that is called cold water shock. Reading that information, and actually experiencing it, I gained a sense of comfort for those on the Titanic, that would be the ones who did not get into the boats. If they felt like I did, I am thinking they just slipped into oblivion without distress. That discovery in itself was quite rewarding. The cold water shock theory made for an interesting experience, however ,one that would influence further jumping decisions. Will I ever do it again, most likely not. I will let the youngsters do it. I will gladly donate and help, but most likely will not participate in the jumping. It was a great experience, I am glad I did it. I am glad I made the decision to at least give it a try. I laud those who do this every year...especially the "older ones" and think it is a great event. May the jumping continue and the donating for those of us, who like to watch.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Looking back...

As I am writing these stories of Peter's life with Special Olympics, I started thinking as to the "why" I insisted that Peter keep going to the practices and the events. It definitely did not appear to be on his list of top ten favorites to do in life. Running out the backdoor and hiding at the neighbors, now that was his thing, not running between two narrow lines to a finish line. And, what is it about swimming that he absolutely refuses to get into a pool these days, when I know he can swim and once in the pool, loves the experience.
These are and were the days, I just wished for one second, Peter could come out with a sentence explaining his needs and wants. Knowing this was not happening, I guess I became the decision maker and based these choices on my past experiences with Sara and Mike. Now, as you know, one never really receives the book on good parenting. Oh sure, there is much information out there, although when my kids were little, really only Dr. Spock was the authority...and may I say that was quite limited. And there was no book or talk show on how to raise a child with special needs. No, those directions came only from the heart and instincts, guessing all the way.
In retrospect, my life and Peter's may have been much quieter, less stressful if I had not pushed the S.O. and baseball occurrences in his life. Would it have been a good choice? I do not know, but what I do know, is now, at the age of 22, Peter likes going to bowling and he does not run into the parking lot in the middle of the game to get away...maybe the bathroom, and maybe the soda machine, but the days of running to the car and refusing to come back are hopefully over. And, Peter does run in Track and Field, although, how he finishes is always a guess, and I know Forest Gump could be the winner if he put on his best shoes. Swimming, I am ever hopeful!
When Peter was still little, post Waismann days, after I stopped my search of finding a diagnosis, I decided to take him back several years later, just as an update, and see if any new research had been done in his disease or syndrome or whatever name we give it. The doctor, after spending several hours with Peter, told me that Peter was doing much better that he expected. Words I still embrace.
So, my personal philosophy which I applied to Sara and Mike, is that it is good to be involved in sports or any other activity that will encourage friendship and that feeling of being involved that would support a good self concept. My other philosophy was that I would treat Peter the same as I did Sara and Mike. So, was that why I began the many Mexican standoff's on bleachers and parking lots? Is that why I spent many occasions having mini pity parties..or was that peter parties behind close doors, in bowling alley bathrooms, in my car wishing Peter would just cooperate? Looking back, I would not do it any different. I did what I thought was best for Peter at the time. I had already gotten over the whole embarrassment thing, and when I wondered what other people were thinking, I replaced it with the can not make any comments on this behavior as you are not walking in my shoes. I had my reasons, and personally, in my mind, they were good reasons.
Would I have the stamina today? Probably not..but that is why Peter was given to me, as a gift, at a time in my life when I had extra heaping of patience and stubbornness, and a strong will to "we will survive this". And, every triumph, no matter how small, was a moment of celebration, and with Peter...we had many of those moments...and, you probably know this by now.....these were free....priceless as the commercial would say...and there is nothing like this feeling!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Flunging the bowling ball

Not everyone is blessed with the gift of coaching a Special Olympics team as was in the case of the gracious person who offered to be the bowling coach, AKA m___ bowling lady, who will be now referred to as the MBL. I laud the MBL's time and potentially well meaning behavior that she invested into this activity, as she consistently showed up at the lanes, started off with good will and a smile, and I really believe she wanted to be patient, kind, and treat everyone equally. I do believe that was her intent, she just did not get the memo that when you are a coach or parent of a child with special needs, and your patience bank has run out, you need to dig deep, take a loan, borrow more patience, do whatever you need to do to refill your bank. MBL when she had reached her limit, as in Mount Vesuvius, exploded, just lost it. Now, if you know anything about caring for these kids, that once you have lost is hard to regroup. In order to maintain peace and quiet, utter calmness, prevention of a disaster is worth it's weight in gold...or gold being sanity.
Peter, actually, really liked bowling, but in his usual Peterism, would need the normal coercing and sometimes bribery to play at the practices. I found that if I just dropped him off, his participation level increased significantly. So, I would spend the hour practice doing errands, walking around the outside of the bowling alley, or hiding in the crowd of parents, hoping he would not detect my presence. His instinctive radar, like he could smell me, allowed him to almost always found me in the crowd. When it came to the big day of participating in the tournament, Peter probably about 99% of the time, would decide he was not going to bowl. Now, this was a very sensitive time for me, as if Peter did not participate, he let his team down. If Peter chose not to participate in a track event, he only lost out, but in this was the whole team. The pressure!! The "no egg on your face" feeling I had every morning that we needed to get the the bowling area. He always got there, but never without a huge, that would be HUGE amount of discussion, bribery, sometimes tears, before he even got in the car. Yes, at times, I, the mother, even resorted to deceit, leading Peter to believe he was going somewhere else, that would not have the name Bowling Alley on it. Of course, getting him out of the car when confronted with Bowling Alley...I won't even go there! Writing this, I wonder if it would have not been easier just to stay home, no, because it was truly my philosophical belief, that engaging Peter in these activities would eventually lead to a more well rounded person and get him over this hump....this A to B thing.
Finally, after years of convincing, Peter did get up one bowling tournament morning, and decided that he was going to participate. Hallelujah!! He wanted to go, his friends were on his team. He even put the dreaded Bowling shirt on, and off we went, met his team, he sat down to play. Now, before I go to far in this dialogue, just an FYI, Peter was not on the MBL's list of favs...probably would not take alot of thinking as to the why. I really do believe she wanted to like Peter, he was just alot of work. Back to the story, the day of play, I could even sit behind the imaginary line in the bowling alley where the fans sit, cheer, and never, and I mean never cross. I sat, Peter bowled...nirvana.
Peter had this unique style of bowling where he cradled the ball close to his navel, ran up to the line, and flung the ball down the alley. The longer he bowled, the higher the flung and the louder. I do not understand how his ball never ended in his neighbor's alley, but it did not.
On this particular day, Peter and his team were doing great, headed for the Regional tournament, when in the third set, Peter's flungs were getting higher, and MBL's patience was getting lower. Peter, got an in your face warning which I thought for sure would send him to the parking lot. But his love for his friends, brought him back to the bench who had just been disciplined for some behavior that MBL deemed inappropriate. Undaunted, the team decided to engage in that game of hands which little kids play where you flap your hands amongst yourself and laugh and laugh and laugh. Guess who was not laughing.....being behind the imaginary line, we the parents, could say nothing but watch with abated breath the next events. Putting the MBL over the limit, the boys received a in your face, finger pointing, incredibly loud warning to stop that behavior. I was convinced that Peter's bowling game was finished. Done for the day....
To my surprise...Peter did not leave. He sat there calmly waiting for his turn, his team mates in tears. When it came, he slowly rose, squarely looked the MBL in the face with a look that you may put into your own words, turned around, and put the ball into the gutter, and once again, returned the same look at the MBL. He repeated this behavior until the second in command, observed the situation, calmed the team, and got them back on track. Although the bench of parents were yelling No Peter, there was this little voice in me say "Yes!!".
Peter's team did not go on that year, as they ended in fourth place. But, Peter, in his own way, seemed to have overcome another obstacle. He got there, he stayed, he made a point. The MBL was relieved of her job that year, and a much more loving and friendlier coach took her spot.
Peter now, at this point, likes bowling, goes to bowling, goes to the tournament and has a great day. Maybe all those years of coersion, crying, bribery paid off and were well worth the effort. Again, a Mexican stand off... did I win? No, I think Peter won!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Peter and baseball

Peter and baseball….not Special Olympics baseball, but an off shoot of Little League that was for children with types of special needs. This league was organized and run by a very special person named Jackie, who deserves a standing ovation for all the time and energy she put into this activity. Come summer, without any hitches, summer baseball took place at one of the town’s tiny parks. Over the years, the number of participants grew so much, that Jackie actually petitioned the city to make three diamonds, with mini-dugouts, a home for the game. As Peter grew, the league grew with the number of participants and varying special needs, from visually challenged, orthopedically challenged, or mentally challenged. Wheelchairs abound on the playing field; everyone played…fun to watch.
Every Saturday, until recently, Peter and I traveled to the park to play ball. Always wanting to have Peter included in whatever he could, I signed him up at a young age. Peter, being Peter, in the beginning resisted going to play. You know the story…I do not know why…once on the field he had a blast. It was always getting him from A to B. A being getting him there and B is getting him to play. What happened in that never land between A and B in his mind remains a mystery to me.
At this young age, when he joined or should I say, I signed him up, began a Mexican standoff that lasted for years. I, believing, this was a “good thing”, drove him every week to the park. Getting him in the car was challenging in itself, but then, getting him to play was an even more grievous task that took years to overcome. You see, Peter and I were both blessed with a huge heaping of Stubbornness, and who would win, was always ongoing. I, the mother, was going to win this one. So, every Saturday, we got up early, got dressed, I managed to coerce him into the car, we drove, and when we got to the park, Peter refused to play. I decided that if I kept coming, eventually Peter would play. So, every week for several years we drove, and then Peter and I sat on the bleachers, whiles I and the coaches gently tried to get Peter to at least bat. Much bench sitting passed until one day; Peter made the move to bat. Finally, he went from the bleaches to the batting cage! How glorious! However, once up to bat, there was the issue of the helmet which weighed more than Peter. He did agree to put it on, cockeye, leaning a bit to the left and then the right, and off he went to bat, a huge accomplishment in all our minds, another step for Peter.
The volunteer pitcher cautiously threw the ball at Peter. Now, if you want to seek an act of patience taking place, it is the pitching process to batters. The ball gets thrown as often as necessary until it is hit, touched, or at least, gone in the general direction where it could be counted as “in play”. Minutes may pass, as one bat. Then the “hit” takes place. The hit could be a dribble, and drop to the ground next to the player’s feet, it could go five feet, or twenty and it did not matter. As in Peter’s mind, it was of course, a home run. After the hit occurs, everyone jumps to their feet, shouting “great hit”, no matter the length, and the batter runs around the bases, sometimes passing up the person in front of him or her. And the volunteers try so hard to get the batter out with no avail, they accidently drop the ball, and just cannot quite get the runner out.
Peter continued his baseball days until he was out of school. Throughout his years, he remained a bit skeptical sometimes playing, sometimes only hitting, and other times truly engaged in the sport. Every day a triumph for him in some small way. What motivated him to play some days and not on other… I will never know…..maybe someday I will discover the secret, the answer, the line that connects A to B. Until then, I know there will be more coercing, negotiating, and clapping when the “B” is reached.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Peter and the Pool

Now Peter should be an Olympic swimmer, that is a Special Olympic swimmer. After all, he was treated just like Sara and Mike and literally thrown into a pool at a very early age. I do not know if "Mommy and Me" classes are still the thing you do when your children cannot walk or talk, but when my children were under the age of one, they were hauled off to a "Mommy and Me" class, and, yes, I their loving mother, dropped them into a nice warm pool and watched them come up for air. Standing close by was the instructor who spewed words of encouragement that they would rise to the top..instincts, she said. And they did, soggy diaper and all, they rose, turned on their backs and floated. An amazing event, which now, may be considered uncool, and maybe, if I did a literature search, may even find and article or two on how this dunk may affect one's psyche.
With Peter it was different. Peter had poor muscle tone as an infant and early toddler, so I was apprehensive about his ability to get to the top..of the water. So, I held off his swimming lessons until he was older. I was determined that he would learn to swim, as we often visited places that included water. The other factor, that kept swimming on the back burner, was finding an instructor who specialized with children with Special Needs.
Peter grew, I researched, and, eventually found a super lady in another city that had a pool in her home, and as I was told, "was good with children with special abilities".
So, off we went, twice a week for swimming lessons. This time, she was the dunker, not I. I sat and watched. Seemingly, this would seem easier, but sitting fully clothed on the side lines, watching Peter struggle at times, took a major dose of patience and trust.
Although Peter took more lessons to catch on, it was a great day when he, fully clothed, in sweats, jumped or maybe he was given a nudge, went into the deep end of the pool, and swam safely to the side. I still see him in his black sweat pants and sweatshirt, making his way to the ladder. Triumph rained, and Peter could swim...or his paddle.
After the pool event, Peter loved the water and would spend hours in a pool or the ocean. Loved water, water slides, shouts of joy were heard throughout the area as Peter was just happy surrounded by water. Of course, when he was done swimming, he was know the story.
Today, Peter absolutely refuses to get into a pool. Hour of conversation, maybe over a glass or wine and chocolate milk, have been spent discussing the "Why" of this and still no insight. No negotiations, no bribing, nada..nothing will remind him that he really does like to swim. No Special Olympic swimming for him. Maybe next year will be the year.....there is always the hope, the anticipation that some magic button in Peter's mind will turn on or off, and he will again enjoy the water. And, if I ever discover that button, I will be the one pushing it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Peter and Track

I like themes. So, now I am on a Special Olympics theme. Peter's Special Olympic days began when he was around the age of 10 or 11, not quite sure on the year. Kenosha was in the initial stages of forming a school aged Special Olympics team, and Peter was asked to join in or maybe I received a flier...can't bring my memory banks back to remember the details, but Peter ended up on the Track and Field Special Olympics team that year.
We, the family, thought this would be a great event for Peter, as we envisioned him the next "Forrest Gump". Why he could outrun any of us in an airport, he could outrun any neighbor kid, why he was destined for fame. Speedy Gonzales within two track lines. Twice a week, for several months, I drove Peter across town, so he could practice his skill of running. I am thinking, practice? Why Peter has this sport perfected.
Peter practiced, got the line thing down, and we awaited with great anticipation his first attempt at the 100 yard dash. This was the year the Special Olympics were hosted at Sara's high school and Sara's soccer team was acting as volunteers. Perfect, she could keep an eye on Pete. For some reason, and again I have a short in my memory banks, the day came, and we anticipated that Peter was not even going to participate in the event. Mmmm, oh that's right, he was not going to play basketball either the other day....some 10 years later. I guess that is his theme. practice, make them think that you will participate, change mind the day of the event.
So the day arrived, and we realized we needed to be creative in getting Peter to participate. In order to get Peter to run to the finish line, Tyler, Sara's friend and a person who Peter just loved, stood at the end of the finish line. See, Tyler told him if he ran, he could have the bag of Fritos that he would be waving in his hand so Peter could retrieve across the finish line. Peter agreed. Tyler stood waving Frito's, we stood in anticipation of Forrest Gump Juniors first race, screaming "run Peter" and would think he was running for public office. He walked, waved his hand at everyone with that vote for me look, and somewhere after all his opponents had finished seconds...minutes, before, Peter crossed the finish line and retrieved his Frito's.
What happened to the kid who could outrun the best of us? "Idunnoknow". But he finished! He was thrilled, he got his chips, his last place ribbon and to him, he was a winner! That was really all that mattered.
Peter's track years continued where in the next several years when he did start to run, only, however, as fast as the person next to him. That was followed by a few years of all out brilliance where he proved he was quick, ran, ignored the people around him, went to State and captured first place.
Now, Peter has a new track routine. He starts out as if he will be in first, running like a mad men, and then about ten feet in front of the finish line, stops, waves, and walks. No amount of coercing will get this young man to keep running. It is just Peter, being Peter.
Maybe this will be the year, he runs fast again and finishes without walking and waving. We will wait, as always, with anticipation to see what will occur, We will shout loudly "Run Peter!" and no matter what the finish, we will have a good day!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Why I like Special Olympics

Today, I got another free high, thanks to Peter. That freebie, was going to the Regional Special Olympics Basketball tournament. If you ever get a chance, spend an afternoon watching one of these events. Although, not perfect, Special Olympics, is as it says...special, where one can cheer loudly for both teams, cheering on the effort, the attempt. I personally feel that every child and parent,..probably more parent, especially the ones screaming at the coaches, refs,etc should spend a day at a Special Olympics event. It is there that one sees the all out effort put into a dribble, or just running down the floor. As said, "Let me win. But if I can not win Let me be brave In the attempt"
Today, when I arrived, Peter remained in his street clothes and was sitting amongst his fully clothed team mates with no intention of participating. After some brief negotiations, he dressed and played enjoying every minute. Now, understand his idea of basketball is keeping your hands in the air at all costs, even if the ball hits you in the stomach..hands up is our motto. He also has the learned running back and forth, or occasional skipping back and forth. But he had his game face on, cheering for his team and the other. If you asked at the end of the game if he won or lost..he would tell you he won. Just to let you in on a secret....their team lost 40 - 4. An occasional sad face, but mostly the joy of playing was seen on his team. And on this particular team, I would applaud the coaches who allowed everyone equal playing time. Their encouragement and patience was awesome. His coaches did not penalize him for getting dressed at the last minute, they loudly applauded him for throwing the ball in and it even went to the correct team, these coaches made him feel special!! Now that is what I call a phenomenal coach!!
So today, I cheered loudly for all those individuals who were trying so hard to do their best, whatever their best was. And for all those coaches who take the time to volunteer so these young adults and adults have an opportunity to play with individuals with their same abilities. Good feeling....and it's free!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Boat Phobia

Remembering Peter giving Kristin hopefully a loving push into the water, also reminded me that was the year Peter decided to hate boats. Loved airplanes, hated boats. Do not know why, but Peter had somehow unknowingly developed a strong hatred, really a phobia about boats. I really did not realize that fact, until several years later, when on the same lake Peter absolutely, no way, refused to go on the boat, this being a pontoon, AKA party boat, which in my mind was absolutely harmless. So, during this week, on a very warm day, that would be an incredibly hot day, I thought that if I held Peter on my lap while we slowly cruised around the Chain of Lakes, holding him and Big Bird, and calmly telling him that he would be just fine, that he would learn to love boats. This boat went very slow, had nice fence around the boat, had great cushy seats, no waves, how could one not like the boat. At least, he would fall asleep. I don't think so.... Peter spent the entire time, screaming, as I held him tight, along with Big Bird and the pound of sweat developing along all my body parts. Fearing he would bolt, I did not dare let go.
That boat ride turned into the never ending boat ride and only served to reinforce his hatred of boats. So much for my thinking of exposing him slowly to what I perceived as a phobia.
The boat phobia continued, with many notes to teachers explaining that Peter would most likely not go on the boat trip, and many teaching assistant spending the day on the pier with Peter. Several years later, traveling again with friends, this particular group decided to take a car ferry across a large river. Thinking Peter would be safe inside the car and no boat phobia, I was surprised that Peter who appeared calm as we went onto the ferry, jumped from the car as soon as we hit water. Luckily he ran into Clete who most likely aborted a swim by Peter. Clete proceeded to calmly talk to Peter while we crossed the river. I think there was hugging involved, and a shout new BFF thing going on during that interval. Clete and Peter discussing the problems of the world, or water, whatever, it worked to keep Peter on board.
In another major boat event, we were in Playa de Carmen planning to visit the island of Cozumel to go scuba diving. Needing to board a Hydrofoil to make the cross, the word on the street was not use the boat word prior to the event in hopes that Peter would just walk the gang plank and not even notice it was a boat. The "boat" being rather large and sort of looking like an airplane...maybe...the eternal optimist thinking this would be the day.
Yep, the entire group boarded the large enclosed cabin boat,happy to be spending the day on Cozumel as Peter and I watched as he ran, refused, to get on that boat. No cajoling would convince him to get on the boat that "Why Peter is it just like an airplane". Waving good bye to my friends, saying it would be okay, and telling them to have good day, I decided this called for a downright good ole, pity party right on the dock. So there sat Peter and I, tears flowing down my cheeks, no holding back. It was not long, never one to be down too long, that a thought crossed my mind. Mmm... in Mexico the pharmacies sell Valium over the counter...maybe a bit of Valium would be just enough to relax Peter. Okay, before you think I am a really bad mother, I think Mr. T had to take Valium when he went on a plane. So off we went in search of drugs.We found a tiny pharmacy close by, and then with my best Spanish, I wrote, and through my arms in the air, spoke loudly, and secured a small dose of Valium and a bottle of juice. With renewed hope, I walked back to the pier, mixed the drug, and gave it to Peter to drink, which he dutifully did. All this being watched by two locals, who turned out to be very helpful after Peter's stomach decided it did not want the concoction. They could not have been nicer in helping me clean up Peter. No language barrier there, just camaraderie in the cleaning process.
About that time, the ferry returned and Peter, most likely not wanting to drink again, cautiously agreed to go on to the "Boat". So we made it on, him standing and squeezing a pole, and I in a recycled airplane seat. During the trip, realizing I had not visited a "ladies" in hours, engaged the help of another local couple who agreed in Spanglish that they would watch him, I was able to leave him shortly.
The boat phobia continued until Peter entered his later high school years where miraculously his teachers were able to convince him to ride boats on their many field trips. When I was told he went on the boat, amazed to that this could really take place, I made the usual phone calls and emails announcing another milestone had been crossed. Never understanding the why of the phobia before and the new acceptance of boats.
What is was about boats I will never know. I do know, it was painful, downright scary for Peter to be on a boat. Again, a time I wished I could get an answer..what is it about boats..please fill me in on the secret. The only answer...the mumbled "Idunnoknow". During that time, we had boat conversations, do not use the boat word, tried various ways to help him deal with boats. Peter, as only Peter can do, in his own time made the decision. Today, he is the first one on the boat...go figure!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Such good friends.....

That is Peter pointing in the direction of the water...he had just pushed Kristin in the water, Kristin, just a toddler, was much smaller than him, so for whatever reason, Peter thought she was in the way on the pier and off she went for a swim. Now, this is where you know you have really nice friends for Kathy, her mom, who is always on the ball, quickly fished out Kristin, and with a laugh, told me what had just occurred. Now, how many people do you know remain that calm when they are fishing their children out of the lake?? And than do not hold a grudge? I know many frienships have been broken over kids, and I am thinking for reasons less than pushing one's friend's child in the drink.
Other acts of kindness also surrounded us as Peter grew. When the kids were young, we held the annual Fourth of July gathering at each other's house, followed by fireworks at the lake. Always a fun event, kids playing, Peter hiding in the local neighbor's door, good food. At one of these events, again, carrying on a conversation with the adults, I was called to please come outside. It was always that panic tone that sent me running and the thought...what did Peter do NOW!!
On this sunny Fourth of July, complete with flags and the Star Spangled banner in a picturesque backyard, with a cool breeze....are getting the picture...are you feeling all warm inside??? Peter, my beloved son, no did not bang their door, had not pushed any children, or flushed the air freshener down their toilet. He chose that day, to go their beautiful backyard garden...oh that would be what was their beautiful backyard garden. He decided to unearth all the many geraniums I am sure Kathy had spent hours planting. There they were, the geranium's that is, sprinkled all over the ground. There I was...seeing no humor in the situation. How do we fix this one???
Kathy and Greg were very forgiving, and we were invited back. No hard feelings. It was just Peter after all, doing his thing, for whatever reason he does his thing.
Over Peter's lifetime, we have been blessed with so many kind and caring friends who have allowed and still allow Peter to be a part of their life's. Many vacations and picnics were spent while Peter flushed their toilets or slammed their doors, and we were asked to come back. These friends, in this story, in the past tales, the blogs to come, are all very special people.
If I haven't thank you yet, or if you have another tale that I have blocked from my memory, please let me know. In meantime, thank you all my kind friends, who I owe shoes,flowers, life preservers, and probably new door springs. Thank you for understanding, patience, and kindness!

Monday, March 1, 2010

While down under

Isn't that picture cute...Peter, Sue, and Julie are standing there looking so serene on the pier. One of the places we visited with the family was Cayman Brac, a small island located off of Grand Cayman. That was good, as it was laid back, and we could keep a close eye on Peter. We usually tried to find a place that included a large fence around the entire property or a small isolated place where one could find Peter by a nearby door. Usually elevators were not in demand at these locales, so that was one area we need not look. Automatic doors either, so just the toilets and the doors were the key outposts for Peter.

On this particular trip, we were staying in a condo unit. The back was within a short walk to the ocean, and the front faced a small pool area and snack bar. Very laid back, quiet, and small. Besides us, a few other families were located in the units that were all connected and looked the same.. If you can imagine, a row of about 8-10 condo's lined up, looking the same, the kind that if you do not know the number or location you could potentially go into the wrong one.

On one of the last days of the trip, we, the adults, decided to take an adult dive, only the mom's and dad's were allowed, and the kids were left behind to play in the pool. Not concerned about Peter, as Sara, a very dutiful sister would be in charge, along with the four other high school kids who would all pitch in to keep a watchful eye on Peter.
Off we went, an adult dive, no watching wayward children under the sea. To me, scuba diving offers a moment in time. Peace and quiet, just me and the fish, no one talking, just like the friends and the fish, and of course the dive master who I always became BFF so someone was watching case I needed to ask for directions.
After two quiet and wonderful dives, we returned to the dock with a line up of teenagers and children. Taking a quick head count, I noted everyone there, including Peter, the place is still standing...why they just must miss us! Approaching the pier, I noticed a look of chagrin on Sara's face and a Peter attached to her hip. We were hardly off the boat when we heard that famous quote...Mom, do you know what Peter did!!!! Dispersed among sighs and major eye rolling, the story unfolds. You see, while under the watchful eye of a myriad of teens, Peter decided he had enough of swimming, and why he could be independent, and get dressed himself. Of course, he did not notify anyone of his plans, and just took off in search of his clothes. He found clothes, alright, just not his. He ventured into another condo, found some man's clothes, three times his size, put them on, and went back out to join the rest of the gang. As the story goes, than these teens, needed to play a spontaneous game of Clue and find out which condo Peter had entered, find his clothes, replace the man's clothes, and come out spelling like roses. Peter, was of no help, after all, the condo's all looked alike. They played the game, found the clothes, and redressed Peter. Since everyone else in the condo units were most likely this day.. the owner of the original clothes remains unknown.
After the dramatic version of the story was finished, we the adults looked at one another and burst into laughter...why that was the funniest story we had heard all day. At the time, Sara was still recovering, and walked away in a huff! For once, I was not the story teller, I was not walking away, not seeing the humor in the situation. Someone else was walking in my shoes. Someone else did not see the humor at the moment. That day added to Sara's understanding and appreciation of Peter.
This tale, when brought up at a party or dinner always evokes a smile or laughter..that do you remember when Peter....For if you have ever been on a island, having had one of those yummy island concoctions they call rum punch.. you also may have pulled a Peter...maybe without the clothes.