Friday, September 30, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Well, my perfect get-away took an abrupt U-turn. I ended up with either food poisoning or the stomach flu, but whatever it was, it wasn't pretty. Had to call my mom who had to call a friend that still lived over there, to come bring me supplies. Answering the door to let her in took it out of me for the rest of the day.

Anyway. I'm home now, and feeling much better. I guess it's a good thing I took my time-out-for-illness then, because since I've been home I've:

* Vacuumed approximately 20 lbs. of weightless dog hair

* Taken Woohoo's car through DEQ. Twice. Needed a fuse so they could run the test. Got the fuse. Got back in line. Fun times.

* Done 100 loads of laundry

* Been to Safeway three times, and Trader Joe's once

* Signed up to bring snacks for several different commitments

* Ordered black pants for Rojo so he can perform in the upcoming choir concert

* Watered all the sagging plants inside and out

* Worked the Snack Shack with Rojo

* Taken both kids to the dentist

* Brushed the dog like there's no tomorrow

* Walked the dog twice

* Put 20 other To Dos on the list from all the e-mails I've received since getting home

* Hyperventilated a few times

* Picked up something from Bi-Mart for STM that he needed immediately

* Several other things hardly worthy of mention, but time consuming, nonetheless

It's important to note I've been home just over 24-hours.

To all you working-outside-the-home mothers, I bow to you.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's Working Already

One thing I harped on repeatedly, while working with Rojo and Woohoo's high school to start a program for kids with learning differences, was the need for peer tutors. "Not just for the special learners, but for the peers themselves," I professed, as though I knew what the hell I was talking about.

I didn't have statistics. I didn't have facts. I had a knowing that what was good for Rojo, would be good for anyone helping Rojo. I guess I did have facts, I had 29 other kids that went through 1-8 grade with him, that I would say, without a doubt, are better for having done so.

So, I talked up peer tutors for years. I knew that Rojo would relish time with someone that was all about him, someone in his age bracket, someone "typical," someone that for a specified amount of time each day, got to leave their "normal" life and immerse themselves in neuro-diversity.

Blessedly, I didn't have much opposition, and a peer tutor program was developed. Rojo loves everything about his school and program, but by far, his favorite thing is the peer tutors.

Friday night STM, Rojo and I went together to the first home football game. Woohoo went too, separately, and spent the evening with her friends, which is all good and the way it should be. We were there about 20 minutes and some kid I'd never laid eyes on before came up to Rojo, plunked himself down, and began to "hang." Finally, I said, "Rojo? Would you please introduce us to your friend?"

Rojo did, and the young man (a senior) shook our hands warmly and firmly, using lots of ma'ams and sirs,  before resuming his spot right next to Rojo on the bleachers. Later, when they were off at the Snack Shack, one of Rojo's teachers walked over to us, looking for Rojo. I explained where he was. "Oh, that's great. You'll love this story," she continued, "I asked all the peer mentors to write me a reflection piece, and that young man said that before this program began, he didn't have any intention of going to college, he thought maybe he'd join the Marines. Now, however, after working with Rojo and his classmates, he's decided what he wants to do with his life is be a special ed. teacher. He's found his calling."

And I can say, without hesitation, that yes, he has.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy to Help

We like to go to 5:30 Saturday night Mass. Not (just) because we then have our Sunday mornings free from the hurry up go, go of the rest of the week, but because there's just a different vibe at that Mass. That's the Mass that most of the "holy elders" attend, the ones that go every weekday morning at 8:00. The ones that have been taking communion with and to each other in times of sickness and in health. The ones that have been there and done that since way before that was an expression. The ones that walk with canes, walkers, and each other arm-in-arm. The ones that teach and preach volumes just by showing up. Those ones.

On Saturday night Rojo, STM, Kathleen, her husband, "Romey," (nickname given to him by Rojo) and I were all sitting there together, Rojo's arms flailing around in his usual celebratory way. A friend came over and asked if he'd help at the end of Mass - hold a basket for donations for a second collection, to our sister parish, a parish in need.

I thought for sure Rojo would say no. He says no to 100% of everything. He is, much like his father, a buck, buck, buck embracer. They say no just to say no, even when "yes" behooves them. Don't get me started. Anyway... thought for sure he'd say no, but he looked at her and said, "I'd be happy help you!"

I looked at him incredulously and he said, point blank, "Glory to God, always."



Monday, September 26, 2011

The Sound of Silence

The tradition has always been that after we're about three weeks into the school year, I go to Sisters, alone, and celebrate the fact that Rojo doesn't have a mark on 'em. I take my journals (dream and otherwise), spiritual readings, ear plugs and sleep eye shade thingy, walking shoes and computer, and de-stim. After three months home with Rojo, the various ice cream truck songs and cell phone ring tones being hummed, sung, kicked and tapped non-stop, it's what I do so that I can keep on doing it.

Because last year we sold the house my mom had in Sisters, I didn't know what I was going to do to keep the tradition alive, and thus, my sanity, and thus, Rojo. My cousin Julie graciously offered me the use of their vacation home, and I very nearly took her up on it (and will in the future). But I don't just need the time away, I need time away in this part of the world - the place where I am most able to hear and feel the comfort of Mary/God/Spirit/myself.

Checked into the possibility of a hotel - way too expensive and would have to have all my meals out (too much bother and too much money). Did a little looking on the Internet and found a super bargain house, now that it's off-season, in the same development in which we had our house. STM thought that was weird, but I know myself. I don't need novelty. I don't need adventure. I need, especially at this moment, the least amount of decision making, the least amount of new and different. I need everything to come down about 10 notches in my brain, and here is the place on Earth where that is possible for me.

I wish I could capture the smell of the air here, and let you have a sniff. It would heal you in a place you need healing - I promise. I have the windows open now, a warm sweatshirt on, and am just reveling in the smell. And the silence. Not enough can be made of the silence. With the windows open I can hear the birds, and in the far distance, the highway (which I pretend is a waterfall - it works). So quiet, in fact, that the battery operated clock on the wall was driving me CRAZY with its incessant ticking. Yanked that battery right out.

Got here yesterday, late afternoon. Went on a walk soon as I got things put away. Had to see my favorite tree on Earth. The tree that reminds me that no matter how far off course I get, or how long it takes me to get wherever it is I think I want to go, things have a way of straightening themselves out. That, and nature corrects.

Can't talk now. Must go sit on the deck and breathe deeply.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

40 Days and Counting

Just spent the last several hours:

* Putting one million dates on the August-August calendar for each of the kids' activities for the year

* Answering one million e-mails

* Generating one million e-mails

* Finding my desk under all the paperwork that's been gathering from church, school, mail, notes to myself, assorted To Do lists, etc...

* Buying/replacing all the things Rojo has grown out of, lost or broken since school started

* Being grateful I have the luxury of doing all these things during the day, and not after work, like so many people I know

* Counting how many days remain until STM and I fly off to celebrate 20 years of wedded bliss

* Photo from

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Finding a New Routine

Dear Blog,

I'm sorry I've been neglecting you as of late, you see, it goes a little something like this: We have out-of-town guests staying with us, and my routine is thrown off. Plus, Kathleen and I have started walking in the afternoons when she gets off work, before I have to go get Rojo from school, and that has, what's that you say? thrown my routine off. Back-to-school has... drumroll... thrown my routine off. STM was doing Cycle Oregon all last week and that, well, as a matter of fact, yes, that has thrown my routine off. Had one over the summer, and am now looking for a new one.

The guests are great - two sisters that are STM's first cousins, travelled all the way from Ohio and Indiana just to spend time with STM's family (and us). Lovely. It's kind of like having two extra Carries in the house, which obviously, is a good thing.

Things continue to go really well for Rojo in his new school and new program. I'm knocking on wood pretty much 24/7 because everything is so great. I well up with tears of gratitude several times a day. Seriously. The communication between Rojo's teachers and me is excellent. No "housekeeping" issue too mundane for them to take seriously. Had a little tiny hiccup in choir as Rojo doesn't read music, has never sung WITH people before, and pretty much doesn't have a single solitary clue what's going on in there. Within 24-hours of the hiccup being identified, a solution was in place. Let me just say this, not only a solution, but divine intervention. The vice-principal found a senior that happened to have a free period when Rojo is in choir, and could serve as a peer tutor. He happens to have had choir before. He just so happens to have a middle school-aged brother on the spectrum and gets it. Oh, and he was already thinking he'd like to get involved in new program somehow - lend his help. Say it with me...

Woohoo continues to own the place as a senior, and is kicking ass all over the place. Most days she takes Rojo to school and many days she's able to bring him home, too. Sometimes she drags him with her to run her various errands, or attend something after school, etc. The other day they didn't get home until 4:15. She looked like something the cat dragged in. Grabbing a snack she says, "I'm out. I'm going in my room and not emerging. Taking Rojo to the mall really did me in."

No comment.

We've done all we can to separate her life/needs from his, let her have her life independently. I see this as a big transition year for her - for one year and one year only, they'll go to the same school, she will be his big sister in a way she hasn't been before, by design. She is assuming greater independence and at the same time, more responsibility. I think it's a good thing to prepare her for college/life. At least that's what I tell myself.

So, things are well here, blog, better than well... blessed.

More soon,

* Photo from

Friday, September 16, 2011

No Soliciting

Doorbell rang last night just as I was trying to put Rojo to bed. Already dark outside, porch light was not on, nothing about our house said, "We are interested in buying what you're selling."

Flicka barked and ran for the door (only time she ever barks is when the doorbell rings). Rojo and Woohoo beat me to the door, and by the time I got there (2 seconds later), they were chatting it up with the young man on the other side. Apparently they'd forgotten all instructions to yell through the door, "Sorry, we're not interested!" Certainly, they forgot not to open the door to strangers.

When I entered into the mix I heard Rojo and the young man having quite an exchange. Of course Rojo knew him from the neighborhood, and this young stud was being so darling with him, I almost started crying. Here stood a tall, handsome, high school athlete, selling some such thing as a fund raiser for his team. Something we clearly don't need, but I bought one anyway, to the tune of $20.

He said goodbye to Rojo in such a sincere way, a way that showed me not only had he had exchanges with him in the past, but that he'd enjoyed them - he wasn't just being nice, which, would have been nice, too.

I love it when people are nice for the sake of being nice, but there's something that warms my heart even more when people are clearly feeling more than that - invested isn't the right word, but you know what I mean. They feel, oh, I guess, sincere in their interaction.

It was $20 well spent.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


So, Rojo, who's only interest in music up to this point has been ice cream truck and church songs, is getting familiar with popular music when he drives with Woohoo in the morning. He now has one favorite, and he sings it over and over and over and yes, you got it, over again. He asked if I could make it play on the radio. I'm powerful, but not that powerful. Turns out what he meant was could I put it on a disc so he could play it on the old Target boom box with flowers on it, and spattered paint from all the times its provided music during painting projects.

Found it on iTunes, burned it on a CD, and within five minutes he was jammin'. Now the song is stuck in my head, too, so I thought I'd share it with you, in the hopes that everyone I know could be singing Ke$ha's song, "Blow."

No need to thank me.

(And no, he has not seen the video.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Look what my human did - all by herself! Not only did she WRITE a book, she made her own trailer! You must watch this, it's fantastic, just like her, just like the book.



So this morning I was on breakfast duty, STM was away, and Rojo decided to pick this day, of all days, to sleep in. Not that I didn't mind a few extra quiet moments, I certainly did, but eventually I had to actually go and wake him up, and it was surprisingly difficult to do. Guess he really is a teenager, after all.

So, Woohoo was leaving at 7:15 sharp to get to school and take care of some things, and he needed to be ready to go. At 6:30 he was lounging (loudly). At 6:40 he was promising to come eat breakfast, but was making no moves towards having it happen. At 6:45 he was finally sitting at the breakfast bar, but was not eating. He was chatting. He was kicking to the beat of some song he was humming. He had his mouth engaged in ten different ways besides the one I needed it to be.

"Rojo, stop chatting and EAT!" I finally said in exasperation.

He continued to chat. Pretty much to himself, I guess, because I was not engaging.

"There's no time for chit-chat, EAT!" I said, now fully enraged.

"There's always time for chit-chat with a friend like you," he said, which of course made me laugh, which of course made him laugh, which of course gave his mouth one more thing to do besides eat.

After we got done laughing, I resumed the drill sergeant role, shouting out, "Eat! Eat! Just EAT!"

"Jesus," he said,"you're like a merry-go-round with the eat, eat, eat, when are you going to get off?"

So, he finally ate, they finally left, I finally took the dog for a walk, and on the way I saw that my favorite sign maker was back at it. "Make someone happy," it said. I decided that by getting off the merry-go-round I'd make at least two people happy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Miracle Boy

So, I'm at Bi-Mart picking up a prescription. I march up to the counter and hear a woman to my left say, "Actually, you're in line." She was an elderly woman, sitting on the nearby bench waiting for the pharmacist to finish her order.

"Oh, okay, I'll stand over here and wait until you're done," I tell her.

She takes a harder look at me and says, "Aren't you the mother of the miracle boy?"

I had recognized her, too, but didn't knew her name - knew she was what we call one of the "holy elders" at our church. When I donate blood she often checks me in.

"So, you were at his Baptism, I see," I say.

"Yes, I've never seen anything like it," she says, "and I've seen a lot."

Then the woman proceeds to tear up and say, "That moment he raised his arms and led us all in the 'Alleuluia Chorus," really got me, it gets me just thinking about it."

"Yes, he's a special boy, alright," I say.

"He certainly is," she says, and wipes her eyes.

Then the mother of the miracle boy wiped hers, too.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Still Flying High

Day #2 was great. Showed Rojo where I would be parked on the days I come to get him, and that took a couple extra minutes. In those couple minutes one of his favorite people got dropped off and was walking into the building. Rojo didn't even glance back, he shot out of the car and was in that building, arm around the friend and marching forward.

Got an e-mail from one of the lovely women that work in the building saying how much she enjoyed her conversation with Rojo that day, and marveled at how much his communication skills have improved in the three years she's known him. Then she thanked me for sending him there. He forced her to be in the present, and she appreciated that. She looked forward to more of what he would be teaching her.

My friend Val and I had a few minutes to catch up today and we talked again about how Rojo has no ego whatsoever. No vanity. No modesty. No self-consciousness. No doubt and no anxiety about how his needs will be met. He is clear he can't do a whole lot of things, and he trusts that whomever he asks to help him, will be more than happy to. This approach hasn't failed him yet.

Why do we struggle so to believe this universal truth, that help is abundant and all we have to do is ask?

Got a good reminder of that recently. We are going to take Woohoo on an overnight trip to visit a college, and are leaving Rojo and Flicka home with a former teacher of his and her husband. Rojo was handled, but I worried about poor Flicka being home alone all day - she isn't used to that and doesn't like being alone. Finally reached out to someone that has told me numerous times she'd be happy to help with Flicka anytime, and guess what? She was happy to help out with Flicka - just like she said! Then she thanked ME for asking!

The message is clear. The universe is set up to be win:win. We ask, we receive. We give, we get. People are helped by helping. It all works if we just let it.

 * Photo from

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Off to a Great Start!

So, approximately two million details went into the first day of high school for Rojo. We're talking years. We're talking about meetings, lists, e-mails, binders of information, more meetings, more e-mails, more years, more lists, more, more, more. Thought I'd considered everything.

Monday afternoon I realized Rojo was going to need PE shoes for the next day. The next day. As in, the next one after that one. This is the kind of thing that would normally have been on my July list of things to do, but instead, it was on my Right This Minute List. Because he can't tie his shoes, it's not just a matter of running out and getting some. I twisted STM's arm, and dragged him to the Nike Factory Store (thank you, Nike, for being local and having an outlet a few miles away). We were there the day before school doing last minute shopping with all the other people doing the same thing. And it was hot. And I was freaking out. And I had my doubts about whether or not we'd find cool shoes with Velcro, in his size, at an outlet store, the very moment we needed them.

But, you already know the end of this story, right? They had one pair. Perfect. His size. Velcro. And not only were they already marked down because they were at the Factory Store, but they were on sale, too. Probably would have been full price if I'd bought them in July. I was rewarded for waiting. I was rewarded for not stressing about the PE shoes until I needed to focus on the PE shoes. I had a need and the universe swiftly and compassionately met the need.

So, Tuesday morning Rojo and Woohoo got up, had breakfast, got dressed, and were out the door by 7:15. I got a couple e-mails from different people at school saying Rojo was having a great day. My head and heart believed that, my stomach had a different idea. I inefficiently (and maniacally) flitted about all day, finally getting Flicka and going outside to wait for them to drive home way before they could possibly be driving home.

The car pulled up, and just as Rojo was getting out, an older man and his dog walked by. "Oh, hi, Jerry, hi, Phinneas," Rojo says.

"Hi, Rojo," says the man I now know to be Jerry. "How was your first day of high school?" So, I got to hear Rojo's stories as he told them to a man I'd never laid eyes on before, but whom clearly loves my boy and is invested in him.

As Jerry (finally) left, he turned to me and said, "I really enjoy my talks with Rojo at the dog park in the mornings. I'm going to miss them. I hope he'll come on the weekends."

You better believe it, Jerry.

Rojo told me all about history - loved his teacher. Loved all his teachers, actually. Didn't use his locker. Didn't remember to get food from the cafeteria like we'd talked about, but did remember that I'd packed snacks, so ate those during lunch. Did go to the restroom when prompted. Did have different buddies assigned to help him for various things. Did have every teacher/staff member/administrator looking on and out for him. Did bring more than one person to tears by how darn cute and sweet he is.

Rested at home for half an hour, peed, ate a snack, drank a ton of water (hadn't all day), then was ready to head right back to school for volleyball. We headed straight for the Snack Shack and announced to the two dads working there (one of whom is Rojo's godfather, Tom, the other the father of one of Rojo's mentors - no accidents), that we'd be helping. We sold Gatorade, water, and popcorn for a full hour, with about a million people coming in to say, "Hi, Rojo!" Both people I recognized, and those that I didn't.

Then our friend J. came into the Snack Shack (I've blogged a lot about this special young man). He is also in the new program at the high school. He was positively beaming. He was talking so fast and so excitedly I could hardly understand him. Didn't need words to get that the boy had had a great first day. He, too, had come back for more. J's mom came in - she was checking to see if I could keep an eye on J. while she ran to Target. "Sure, buy me a lock for Rojo's PE locker - you'll know what to get, one that he can manage." So she did. Meanwhile J. had worked out an alternative ride home for himself from another mom in our village. He was set to stay longer than his mom could, and had no problem being at the school indefinitely.

Sat between the two special boys on the bench and watched/listened as one person after another came to say hi to them. Little kids. Students. Siblings of their friends. Parents. Staff/teachers. All of a sudden the day(s) caught up with Rojo and he looked exhausted. "Rojo, you look tired, are you ready to go?"

"Yea, let's do," he said. On the way home he told me all about how the boys have five minutes to shower after PE. He's all excited about that. Had I thought about that before, I'd have lost several nights sleep, but because it (like the shoes), failed to reach my radar, it also failed to freak me out. He's not modest, he's full of belief that that, like everything else, will go just great for him.

When we got home there was a voicemail - friend of STM's wanted him to call him back. Turns out the man wanted to tell us that Rojo and Woohoo had been the topic of their dinner conversation that night. This man's daughter, Woohoo's friend, caught Woohoo walking hand-in-hand with Rojo out of the building when it was time to leave Tuesday afternoon. The friend told her family all about how proud and protective Woohoo is of her little brother, and that the whole school knows not to mess with him, or they mess with her (all 110 lbs. of her).

It was a great day.

Today was Late Start, Rojo didn't have to be there until 9:40. Woohoo left early to meet her boyfriend for coffee first (how grown up does that sound), so I said I'd take him - had to run errands out that way, anyway. Thought we'd leave about 9:15, get him there with time to spare, but not too much. Long about 9:00 he shouts up to me as I'm finishing getting ready and says, "Care? You ready to hit the road? I want to get to school and see my friends."

* Photo from

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Boy

My boy had Freshman Orientation on Friday. He was there from 8-2. 

My boy was "22% nervous and 78% excited." 

My boy made a bunch of new friends, "Mom, I have all their phone numbers in my phone." 

My boy ate lunch in the cafeteria, and ate what they were serving just like everyone else.

My boy knows all the women that work in the cafeteria (they used to work at his grade school). One of them asked me on Friday, "Will Big Bird be in his locker?" She remembers him from the days he looked like the picture above. NECBM of that.

My boy figured out where he was supposed to go and got there. "Mom, they gave me a schedule and it had all the room numbers on it, so I just looked up and found the rooms."

My boy fell asleep at his regular time today and got up at his regular time, meanwhile, I didn't sleep a wink last night, too busy trying to open his locker (unsuccessfully) all night in my dreams.

My boy hopped in his sister's car and drove off with her for his first real day today.

My boy didn't even ask if I would take him and get him to his room the first day.

My boy has plans for after school - we are going to the see his "girlfriend" play volleyball and help out in the Snack Shack.

Sorry Not Sorry

I'm sorry I keep pointing you towards BrenĂ© Brown's podcast,  Unlocking Us , but I'm not that  sorry.* I've appreciated ever...