"Normal" Is A Dryer Setting

Parenting A Child On The Autism Spectrum


The Big Push

I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air
So there
We’re on each other’s team
~ Lorde, Team

Screws in shoes

Screws in shoes

Spring is coming very slowly to Minnesota, in drips and drags, which means that soon I can begin running outdoors again. In anticipation of still snowy paths and icy patches, I modified an old pair of shoes to prevent me from slipping. To make your own, predrill holes in the soles and then insert small screws until they are about ¼” from being completely screwed into the shoe. I have found that this modification works better than boots or Yaktrax for gripping slippery places of the trail.

Last fall I promised my boyfriend that I would stop running half marathons. When I returned to his house in ice cube form after my late October one, he took me in with one glance and said, “You don’t look good.”  I told him, “I tore the bottoms of my feet on the big hill after Mile 11,” to which he grimaced and replied, “I don’t think you should run any more long races.” Upstairs in the shower, sitting with my head between my knees while the hot water warmed me up, I told myself that he was right. Why do I do things like this? Why race? Why compete? What am I trying to prove?

The point is not to compete or prove anything. I run because I love the combined mental and physical challenge. I knew the hill was coming after Mile 11, and, having run it in previous races, I knew what I was in for. The elevation increases by 100 feet within half a mile, and most of us choose to run it. I pushed myself because I knew after the hill I had less than two miles to the finish. At that point it was simply a matter of putting one foot in front of the other until the end. So close, and so tired, but nothing compares to crossing the finish line and knowing that I had accomplished my goal despite the voices in my head and the physical ache. Now spring is coming, fall is far behind me, and I am once again ready and eager to begin training.

“I’ve never had anyone do this that quickly.”

Our clinical study site.

Our clinical study site.

That statement was not made in response to my running. I’m a middle-of-the-pack kind of girl, each and every race. My son Tim recently participated in a clinical study on memory. This study is part of an ongoing research program by a psychologist at the University of Minnesota who studies the relationship between attention and autism. For an hour of Tim’s time once or twice a year, he earns $10 each session and enjoys being the center of attention. He does computer simulations, looks through diagrams, adds and subtracts, and recalls images and patterns. Everything is timed which helps provide statistical information. In his most recent clinical study, I overheard the doctor make the above comment when Tim was doing a number puzzle.

The clinical studies are usually done at our home or at the University. We tend to flip flop depending on our schedules. The first time our doctor came to our home for a study was approximately three years ago when Tim was in seventh grade. At the end of the study, she took a few minutes to talk to me with her recommendations. Her advice was that Tim should be taking college courses, not withering away in a middle school classroom. She stressed that intellectually he was ready for college and keeping him where he was would not be beneficial to him. I agreed but didn’t know how to start the conversation with the staff at the public school he attended.

This is an example of one of the patterns Tim had to copy using blocks.

An example of a pattern Tim copied during his clinical study using blocks. You can purchase this and other puzzles at Marbles located at the Mall of America.

Now Tim is in tenth grade and will begin taking college courses next fall in Animal Science as part of his regular school day. At our most recent IEP meeting, his teacher, staff, father, and I discussed him starting college early. We were all in agreement, and this would not be happening if we were not all on the same team. Tim’s teacher commented that she is reaching the point where she has nothing left to teach him, and it is time for him to begin transitioning to college. Tim will be taking one college course each semester, and by the time he graduates from high school he will already have four college courses in Animal Science on his transcript.

I wasn’t sure any of this would ever happen. When Tim started middle school three years ago, I participated in some workshops for parents of special needs children that his school generously set up. One moderator made this remark to our group that has since tumbled around in my head:

“Your child is not entitled to the best education possible. Rather, he or she is entitled to an education that is appropriate for his or her needs.”

As difficult as this is to hear, it is true. Reading it in writing makes me cringe. Not every person is meant to go to college, just as not every person is meant to get married, have children, travel the world, be an athlete, raise chickens, you get the point. I started to hold the thought in my heart that Tim may not go to college. Mentally I was Mile 7-8 of 13 miles, where you’ve come a long way, but you’re starting to feel tired, your feet are starting to ache, and you are well aware you still have a long way to go toward your goal.

Now we’re at Mile 11 with Tim regarding his childhood. The final part is one last push toward college, and then he enters the next phase of his life as an adult. The hill I had been fearing for years is no longer insurmountable. We just have to dig deep and run up it. Tim has come so far, and both his teacher and I have seen enormous mental and emotional maturity in him this past year. Even though Tim is nearly good to go, this is no time to rest. We have SATs and ACTs to prepare for, colleges to visit, applications to write, and choices to make. And what an exciting and delightful time it will be.

Here are some websites that may be helpful in researching colleges for students who fall on the autism spectrum:

  • AHEADD – Achieving In Higher Education (http://www.aheadd.org/): Provides coaching, mentoring, and self-advocacy for students with special needs.)
  • USCAP – US College Autism Project (http://www.usautism.org/uscap/): Provides support for students on the autism spectrum to help ensure they have both a successful college experience and a successful transition to the working world after graduation.
  • ISER – Internet Special Education Resources (www.iser.com): List of college programs to help students with the transition to college, independent living, college planning, and much more.
  • College Lists (http://collegelists.pbworks.com/): Nationwide list of colleges that have support programs for students with a former diagnosis of Asperger’s. Augsburg College (http://www.augsburg.edu/) is one of them if you live in the Twin Cities.



Don’t you worry child. ~ Swedish House Mafia

Tim with the lady of the house.

Tim with the lady of the house.

I was preparing a presentation for our cluster’s group meeting last week and used this photograph of Tim in one of my slides. I took it two summers ago when he was at horse therapy and choosing which horse he was going to ride. The horse in this picture is the dominant female of the herd, and if you look closely, you can see the other horses waiting respectfully for her to finish investigating this new, interesting, and very little human being. Her stablemates know to give this female her space and time alone with Tim, for if they so much as step one hoof out of the pecking order, they can expect to be pushed and nipped back into line where they belong.

The extraordinarily strange observation I had when I put this picture into my presentation, however, was that Tim was crouching on the ground. I remember seeing him do this, and it wasn’t out of fear. He did it out of instinct. No one told him that this female was the leader of the pack. Somehow he knew, and he, too, knelt down in front her in a gesture of companionship and submission. I also noticed that Tim’s body was at an angle to the horse’s, indicating to her that he was not confronting or challenging her by facing her straight-on. Tim did not do this with any of the other horses. His equine modus operandi is to go right up to the horse, make eye contact, and rub its nose and forehead. Somehow he bonds with the horses, and they in turn enjoy his company. The relationship feels very natural on both sides.

Tim loves animals of all sorts, shapes, and sizes. You can read about his first horse therapy session, complete with more photos of beautiful horses, by clicking here. Tim knows that he wants to work with animals as a career, and I agree with him that he should follow his heart. Tim is on a level of communication with animals amazes me, and almost all of it is nonverbal. He uses his eyes and positions his body in such a way that animals realize he is a friend and not foe. Just a friend with much less fur. The challenge for me as a parent is helping provide Tim with the support and resources he needs to meet his goal.

We recently had a routine meeting at Tim’s school to evaluate his IEP (Individualized Education Program). By law Tim’s IEP needs to be revisited and most likely revised every three years, and this is why I met with his school staff. One great benefit of Tim attending the Creative Alternatives Program at Capitol View is their relationship with Century College in White Bear Lake. When Tim is in eleventh grade, he can start taking college courses at Century as part of his school day. Pursuing a major in their Health Sciences curriculum will let Tim become an Animal Health Technician, where he can assist veterinarians with examinations, diagnostic and laboratory tests, surgeries, and managing animal facilities. If Tim enjoys working as a technician, he will also have the option to continue his education elsewhere to become a Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine.

If you look at Tim’s grades and IQ, he is definitely capable of achieving above and beyond anything I have ever set out to do in life. The only unsatisfactory grade he received at the end of his fall semester was in gym class, and, as I remarked to his teacher, I’m not all that concerned about gym. He is excelling in math, language arts, science, and history. He could do better in art and social/transition skills, but again, these are not concerns for me. The social skills will come with time, and Tim will fit himself in to where he is meant to be in life. The one warning we have given him is if he wants to be a veterinarian, he will need to learn to communicate with people. These people will also be upset at times since they love their pets, and pets usually have shorter life spans than humans do. My feelings are that anyone can learn to communicate with other people, even if it doesn’t come naturally at first. Communication with animals, however, needs to be something innate. It needs to be a natural part of who you are.

As Tim’s parent I need to help get him to where he wants to be in life. I cannot make doors and opportunities magically fly open for him, but I can provide support for him as long as he needs it. The parent-child relationship may be the only one where the goal is separation. You know you have done a good job when your child takes flight from your home and enthusiastically begins her or his own life. Tim wants to have his own life, with his own career, apart from me, but he isn’t quite sure how to get there yet. My goal over the next decade is for he and I and his educators to work together, with the help of Minnesota state resources for young adults with special needs, to help Tim find out who he is and what he is meant to do. To help him discover the talents he has that others do not, his relationship with animals being one of them.

Here are some useful links if you would like more information:



It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences. ~ Audre Lorde

Tim’s first week of school was last week, and it was blissfully uneventful. The only catch is with his commute, which is taking longer at least for the first few months due to road construction. Tim’s transportation to school is provided by the State of Minnesota. Each morning we have a minivan pull up in our driveway which drives him and a few other students in our neighborhood approximately 16 miles across town to school. When school ends in the afternoon, the van is waiting for Tim, and he hops back on and is dropped off in our driveway.

The van had been scheduled to pick Tim up at 7:20 am, assuming a 30 minute drive to school. However, that time changed to 7:00 am, which gives the van driver a full hour to get his students to school by the 8:00 am start time. Much of this morning commute entails sitting in rush hour traffic, and one of the other students on the bus spends his time in traffic loudly stating how much he dislikes sitting in traffic. When Tim told me this, my knee-jerk reaction was to immediately say, “YOU DO NOT REACT. You sit quietly and let the adults on your van handle the situation.” Tim says that yes, he knows not to say or do anything, but I know my child and I am aware that when he is stretched to the limits of his patience, he goes blind, deaf, and dumb with anger.

Step back for a minute and imagine yourself in Tim’s situation. How would you feel if you had to spend an hour each morning, before your day has even really begun, sitting in traffic with someone you don’t know and probably don’t even like sitting next to you talking the entire time? What kind of mood would you be in when you got to wherever you are going? And you have a full day of something or other ahead of you where you are expected to keep calm, carry on, and NOT LOSE YOUR TEMPER.

My child will surely set a world’s record for holding patience if he makes it through the van commute this year without snapping. Since there was no snappage last week, and so far this week everything seems to be going fine, we’ll worry about that when it happens. My goal for both myself and Tim, as much as I can control it, is to stay converged. I have a picture that explains what I mean, and it is incredibly ironic that I came across it. The image came from a book called The Facilitator’s Guide To Participatory Decision Making by Dr. Sam Kaner. A coworker who spends the bulk of her time facilitating interactive groupthink at my company recommended the book.

From “The Facilitator’s Guide To Participatory Decision-Making” by Dr. Sam Kaner.

This is a model proposed by  Dr. Kaner on the dynamics of how groups make decisions. When you first form your group, you are feeling each other out. You all have different backgrounds, experiences, opinions, and ideas to draw from. As you discuss your new topic, you begin to realize that, while you may have something in common with the other members of your group, more likely than not you have a wide array of diverse perspectives. As you brainstorm your new ideas, you enter into a divergent process which can feel frustrating and chaotic. The key to making a decision point is to enter a process of consolidated thought, where you and your team members converge to a unified set of ideas.

In addition to managing groups of people in the workplace, this diagram also applies to raising a child with special needs, such as Tim. As a parent, I go through this process every school year. Tim never has the same teacher twice, and the support staff change as well depending on what Tim’s needs are at the time, his age, and how he is performing both academically and socially. We have had school years that have gone extremely well, but this only happens when both the parents and the educators make a concerted effort to cooperate and communicate effectively. When communication begins to break down, so does everything else.

The most divergent part, where absolute chaos threatens to break out, is usually the most stressful for me as a parent. Some years I feel like I am barely keeping the school situation under control. I have learned to manage the stress by exercising, eating a balanced diet, and spending time with friends. Finally, nothing helps more than a good night’s rest. Life becomes more manageable when I do these things for myself. It’s similar to the emergency instructions we receive before an airplane takes off, where you need to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting someone else.

Mmmm…need I say more?

Tim commented recently on how his entire life is one big ball of stress. He is at the age where he can identify what stresses him the most and how to avoid it, or at least de-escalate the situation. I try to spend time with him where we are in low stress environments, which can be as simple as hanging out at home. Tim enjoys cooking, so we’ve started making fun meals together. One of my coworkers dropped a big bag of tomatoes from his garden by my desk this morning, and I told him some of those will be going straight on the pizzas we are making tonight with homemade sourdough crusts. Tim enjoys spreading the sauce and cheese on his pizza and picking out his toppings. This simple task gives him a sense of control that he doesn’t seem to feel very often in his world.

This afternoon I received a message from Tim’s teacher indicating that he seems a little bored during maths and independent reading. I wrote back that Tim functions at a college level in both, and perhaps there may be a way to give him assignments that help him feel more challenged. His teacher also wrote that Tim mentioned he already knows all the science they are reviewing, so I mentioned that we’re able to do science experiments at home if Tim could spend class time doing data analysis or writing a report or presentation. These are the little things that Tim has no idea go on, the background communication between the adults in his life, that will hopefully assure him an appropriate education this year. I, as usual, remain optimistic for what the future holds, even if it is nothing more than loosely organized chaos.

Here is an excellent recipe for sourdough pizza crust from King Arthur Flour’s website. It is dairy-free and freezes well too. We split one batch into four rounds, and each round makes enough pizza to feed two hungry people. Bon appétit!

Sourdough Pizza Crust

  • 1 cup sourdough starter, unfed (straight from the fridge)
  • 1/2 cup hot tap water
  • 2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 4 teaspoons Pizza Dough Flavor, optional but delicious


1) Stir any liquid into the sourdough starter, and spoon 1 cup starter into a mixing bowl.
2) Add the hot water, flour, salt, yeast, and Pizza Dough Flavor. Mix to combine, then knead till smooth and slightly sticky, about 7 minutes at medium speed using a stand mixer with dough hook. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased container, and allow it to rise till it’s just about doubled in bulk. This might take 2 to 4 hours; it might take more. A lot depends on how vigorous your starter is. For a faster rise, place the dough somewhere warm (or increase the yeast). To slow it down, put it somewhere cool.
3) For two thinner-crust pizzas, divide the dough in half, shaping each half into a flattened disk. Drizzle two 12″ round pizza pans with olive oil, tilting the pans to coat the bottom. Place half the dough in each pan. Cover, and let rest for 15 minutes. Gently press the dough towards the edges of the pans; when it starts to shrink back, cover it, and let it rest again, for about 15 minutes. Finish pressing the dough to the edges of the pans.
4) For a thicker-crust pizza, drizzle olive oil into a jelly roll pan (10″ x 15″) or half-sheet pan (18″ x 13″), or similar sized pan; or a 14″ round pizza pan, tilting the pan to coat with the oil. Shape the dough into a flattened disk or oval. Place it in the pan, cover it, and let it rest for 15 minutes. Push the dough towards the edges of the pan; when it starts to fight back, cover it and let it rest for 15 minutes. Finish pushing it to the edges of the pan.
5) Cover the pan, and let the dough rise till it’s as thick as you like. For thin-crust pizza made from fairly fresh starter, this may only be an hour or so. For thick-crust, using an old, little-used starter, this may take most of the day. There are no hard-and-fast rules here; it all depends on the vigor of your starter, and how you like your crust. Once you make it a couple of times, you’ll figure out what time frame works for you.
6) Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450°F.
7) For a thicker crust, pre-bake the crust for about 8 minutes before topping. Top, then bake till toppings are hot and cheese is melted and bubbly, about 10 minutes. For thin crusts, bake for 4 to 5 minutes, then top and bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, or till toppings are as done as you like.
8) Remove from the oven, and loosen the edges of the pizza with a table knife or heatproof spatula. Carefully lift it onto a cooling rack; you can serve it right from the pan, if desired, but a cooling rack helps keep its bottom crisp. Serve hot.
Yield: one 14″ round, or rectangular thick-crust pizza; or two 12″ round thin-crust pizzas.

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The Windy City

Jump start my heart. ~ Natalie Cole

I forgot how much I love Chicago. Growing up a mere three hour drive away from the Windy City meant school trips to places like the Shedd Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry. When I moved to northwest Indiana for college, we would to go Chinatown for the day which included eating at the House of Fortune and purchasing large quantities of tea and rice for next to nothing.

This past weekend I was in Chicago for a wound healing conference. This was a smaller meeting, maybe 1000 people at the most, and it was an interesting combination of scientists (like me), physicians, students, and nurses. As I sat through the symposia, which ran from about 8 am – 6 pm each day, I started to realize that wound healing research is about 20 years behind cancer research. The main problem with treating wounds appears to be a lack of knowledge behind what goes wrong when a wound doesn’t heal. While researchers are working as quickly as they can to find biomarkers for wound diagnostics, there are only so many hours in a day and days in a week.

One speaker posted the following quote in his talk:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. ~ Charles Darwin

My mind immediately jumped from wound biology to my son Tim. How appropriate for him, I thought. I wonder if this is why autism is on the rise – in today’s world people with this diagnosis need to be adaptable. They need to learn to blend in with the rest of us in order to do everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, driving a car, and having a conversation with someone they just met. This adaptability is key for survival, and if those of us classified as neurotypical have no need to adapt, according to Charles Darwin we will eventually be weeded out of the general population.

In addition to mental bendability, people need physical flexibility as well. This was a common theme throughout the sessions…people learning to live with limitations after enduring a trauma or a disease. As part of the conference one morning about a dozen of us hopped on a shuttle to the University of Chicago Medical Center to see the da Vinci Surgical System. The da Vinci robot is capable of performing minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, and it is used to treat conditions such as cancer, obesity, and heart disease. I had surgery done using this system last fall, and while I had healed up physically, there were still some mental cobwebs lurking in my mind. My problem was that during surgery my doctor cut an artery which resulted in a lot of blood loss. I had nightmares from this for months, where I would dream about blurry shadows suddenly moving around me very quickly and talking very loudly while I laid immobilized and unable to communicate.

The University of Chicago has two da Vinci robots, one for training and one for surgeries. We saw the robot used for training, and when I walked in I first noticed the really cool looking rubber gadgets on the operating table. After the doctor giving the tour explained how the robot works, we each took a turn sitting at the console and moving the arms. Surprisingly operating the robot feels like using your own two hands. Once we got used to the controls pads, we picked up rings, threaded needles and tied sutures. As I picked up rings and stacked them on a little rubber pillar, I felt something heal up in my mind. I was able to fully appreciate how skilled my surgeon is and how fortunate I was to have my tumor removed using this system.

The last morning of the conference one of the speakers organized a run to raise money for wound healing research. A group of us met in the hotel lobby at 6 am and walked together down to Navy Pier, where we had a quick 5K out and back along the Lakefront Trail. The weather was perfect, and the sun had just risen as we started our race at 6:30 am. I ran on the boardwalk by Lake Michigan, and due to how the trail curves, I had a view of the water the entire way out. At our turnaround point, we were greeted by a sleepy 18-year-old with water, and then it was back to Navy Pier.

I finished in almost exactly 26 minutes, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I had won an award. I haven’t won an award for anything remotely athletic since third grade. It turns out that I came in second for the female finishers, and the woman who finished before me was the organizer who runs marathons. She gave me a certificate that I have posted in my office at work to remind myself that everyone is capable of achieving more than he or she thinks they are able to. Sometimes you also need to push yourself, and you may need to adapt. I usually run longer distances at a slower pace, but for this race I thought I would see how fast I could go.

Chicago – I have been away from you for far too long. I promise I will come visit again soon, when I have ample time to walk the Magnificent Mile, tour numerous museums, hang out along Lake Michigan, and see everything I want to see. I promise you, I will be back.

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The Question

My biggest parenting fear is: Do I have what it takes to help someone navigate life? ~ Jennifer Westfeldt

Tim’s teacher called me yesterday with a question about his IEP. An IEP (Individualized Education Program) is a living document, and Tim’s is revised from time to time depending on how he is doing in school. Tim’s IEP is the only one I have ever seen, and his has previously consisted of three goals that he needs to make progress on. Here is an example of one of Tim’s goals when he started school last fall:

This is a lot of official language which states that Tim needs to work on seeing other people’s points of view. I don’t know where the 70% percent comes from, and cognitive flexibility can be difficult for me to manage sometimes, but what the school needs is a way of quantitatively measuring an abstraction.

When Tim started school in the fall one point his autism specialist emphasized was that, from here on out, on his IEP we should make his overall goal progress toward college. In Minnesota children with special needs can stay in high school until they are 21, and if they do, what happens is they go through a transitional living program. A transition living program teaches young adults day to day life skills, such as balancing a checkbook, cooking simple meals, and holding a job. At Walmart. Or McDonald’s. Or as a janitor. If there is college, it may be at a trade school. I agreed with Tim’s school that he does not fall into this category. The goal that we decided on for Tim’s IEP was to help him learn social skills so that when he turns 18 he graduates from high school and starts college the next fall. Whether he succeeds in college or not is another story and not the high school’s responsibility. All they can do is prepare him in the best way possible.

Tim’s new teacher at Capitol View called me with a question. We played phone tag for a few days, and she said in her messages that it wasn’t urgent. She just needed clarification on something. When we talked yesterday, she asked me about one of the pages of the IEP that Tim’s old school sent when he transferred to Capitol View last February. Here is what was written in the most current version of the IEP:

Tim’s new teacher wanted to know why the transitional living program was on his IEP when that was not what we had discussed at his entrance interview back in February. She was confused and was asking me for an explanation.

That is when I started yelling. The words just tore out of me.

This goal was not something that I had seen before. It was not what his old school told us they were preparing him for. If you want to be a veterinarian, you don’t do a transitional living program and then think about taking courses at a community college. Now I don’t know if Tim is going to become a vet or not. That is not the point. The point is that people only perform to the level expected of them, and if expectations for Tim are drastically lowered from what they were before, he will perform only as needed. Whether he goes to college or not is not up to his secondary school. What is their responsibility, however, is to prepare him for it as best as possible. He is definitely intelligent enough to go. Whether he has the social skills to get through college is another story, but, as Daniel chides me when I become too philosophical, we won’t know until we try, will we?

How does Amber the Abyssinian stay so Zen?

Tim’s new teacher and I had a good conversation once I started breathing again. I told her that I had problems getting updated copies of Tim’s IEP where he was before, and she promised me that she would always send me Tim’s IEP when we revised it. She also said that she will work on revising his goals for his new IEP at Capitol View, which is why she called me in the first place. What we had discussed and what was in writing didn’t add up.

The school where Tim is enrolled now is the first school where I feel like people are on my side. On Team Tim. They are still evaluating what he is capable of, both academically and socially. His teacher is working on establishing a benchmark so we can see where his strengths lie and what he needs to work on to move forward. When I told Tim what had been written in his old IEP, he told me that didn’t make sense. It wasn’t what he wants. I said he needs to make sure that he is also putting an effort into his education so he can accomplish his goals. My 13-year-old replied to that with an eyeroll and an “Okaaaaaayyyy, Mom,” but I think he understood my point. What you put into life is what you receive from it.

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Nothing is worth more than this day. ~ Goethe

Yesterday was Autism Awareness Day and I missed writing about it because all is right with the world. April is Autism Awareness Month, which gives me 20-something odd days (biologists don’t do math but I am certain that the month of April contains somewhere between 27-32 days) left to post events happening around town.

I spent the bulk of Autism Awareness Day with Tim due to two appointments. In the morning we had an orthodontist checkup. We discovered that he no longer needs to wear his retainer which = yay for him. In the afternoon we had an IEP meeting at his school to discuss his progress since he started there in the beginning of February. Tim is doing very well at his school. He is social, interacts with the other students, has made friends, volunteers in class, organizes his time, and the other students look up to him because he is polite and easy to talk to and verbally fluent which = yay for his momma. I almost burst at the seams with joy. That evening we hopped across the St. Croix River to eat at Carbone’s Hudson location, which we believe makes the best pizza in the Twin Cities. Pizza Lucé move over!

Lake view from our deck!

The weather was beautiful on Sunday, yesterday, and today, and as I grilled our supper tonight I could not help but think of how fortunate Tim and I are. We live in a quaint historical river town. Our neighborhood is safe. I have a secure job that I enjoy. Tim is finally in a school where he feels he fits in. We own a home that will be paid off in less than 14 years. We have friends and family who love us and want us to have the best lives possible. What more is there to ask? I easily forget how blessed Tim and I truly are.

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The Winds Of Change

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~ Albert Einstein

Anarchy has broken out at work. I have been dealing by consuming lots of chocolate and running on the treadmill until my legs feel like falling off. In case you are a new reader, and I do absolutely ADORE new readers, so please keep reading, here is a breakdown of the events from the past two weeks:

  • My lab partner dies. Again, if this is your first time reading, and please accept my apologies for the emotional wallace and gromit¹, here is the link to that entry. This past week her husband, who works upstairs from us, has been sorting through her filing cabinets, sobbing when he thinks no one can hear him. I finally left my office one afternoon to let him grieve in peace and because I was near to tears from hearing him. I went to the building next to mine, planted myself in the doorway of a friend’s office so she couldn’t escape, and told her why I was there and that she needs to talk to me for a few minutes.
  • Our manager moves to China for a two years to set up an R&D lab for our company in Shanghai. We are leaderless until mid-April. And…
  • Voila, like magic…Our cluster has been asked to put together a day-long session of seminars and posters from our group. I have been asked to pull in a coworker, any coworker, from one of the health care departments we work with, and I CANNOT FIND ANYONE to volunteer because 1) it is extremely short notice, 2) people don’t like to be bothered, and 3) several of them already have a day-long meeting the day of our poster session.
  • Already our R&D spending for 2012 is being restricted which means that I need to watch what I purchase for our project. However, no supplies = no experiments = no results. So I spend anyway until someone higher than I tells me not to. And experiments have been making for long work days, which is good but tiring and taking me away from my son Tim.

Tim switched schools as of Monday, and I have made every effort to be home as early as possible for him this week. People with Asperger’s Syndrome sometimes have trouble with transitions, and sometimes they are uncomfortable around people they meet for the first time. This week Tim has had to deal with new busing, a new building, a new teacher, a new schedule, new cafeteria food, new cafeteria rules, new school rules, and you know what? He’s doing great! So far! After one week! Which is better than Capitol View being a disaster from the start.

Tim says that the best part of his new school is that “it just suits him better”. I asked Tim what the worst part is, and he said nothing. I kept pestering him to find out what he wishes was different, and he couldn’t think of anything. Tim has spent the week being tested for placement in math. Today is science his class watched a PBS video on kangaroos. Apparently it is called “Kangaroo Mob” and it is about kangaroos who live in urban parts of Australia. You can pull up the video on PBS’s website by clicking here. In art, his class is working on making masks. Tim has started painting his. Gym class has consisted of playing tennis this week, and Tim decided that tennis is the worst part of school so far. He claims to have repressed that when I asked him earlier about the worst.

One part of Tim’s school day that is unique is the board game part. His class of four boys plays board games regularly to help build social and interpersonal skills. When I asked Tim what kind of games he has been playing, he said they were games for his brain. Then he finished petting Smokey The Cat, asked if he could go, and went back to watching his Netflix program. Another social aspect is lunchtime in the cafeteria. The cafeteria at Capitol View only has a few tables, which forces the students to sit together instead of separating out. While the students may choose not to talk to one another during lunch, they still share a meal at the same table.

An oldie but a goodie! Tim when he was six weeks old.

My first and foremost responsibility as a human being on this green planet of ours is to make sure that I raise my child the best I know how. The best I am capable of. Craziness at work takes away from my ability to raise my child. I have to work to earn money, and, similar to the equation above, no work = no cash = no provisions for my son. At times like these, I am thankful that Tim is an independent and self-sufficient young man. He has had a stressful last couple of weeks as well and is going through a time of transition right now. I actually think he is handling his transitions better than I am handling mine. Maybe it is because life to him is one gigantic behemoth of constant change. Or maybe he just really likes his new school.

¹Cockney slang which is quite fun once you get the hang of it. Daniel turns my James Brown upside down when he starts using it 😀 .