Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mrs. O'Brien and Mrs. Nemire

Wylie’s teachers have all been angels. Every single one of them. If the heavenly host were comprised of teachers, those most lovely of wing, most honored and battle-worn must certainly be Special Day Class (SDC) educators and their aides. And of the heavenly host, Mrs. O’Brien is then arch angel Michael to Mrs. Nemire’s Gabriel.

Laurel O’Brien teaches 1st and 2nd grade SDC at Calimesa Elementary School. The districts in our area took over SDC education from the counties after Wylie completed kindergarten. This was no small affair in the life of my child. Wylie had adapted to the county class, transportation on the special bus and the routines, environment and campus of the county school program. I remember myself being very anxious about the transition from the county program to the new campus, new routines, new school, new teachers…of course, Wylie would be anxious as well. For others who have been through this process with a special child, when you begin anything new it’s almost like you hold your breath until the routine is established…then you can exhale. Laurel’s quiet calm demeanor and wonderful authentic spirit assuaged any anxiety. Wylie instantly warmed to her and Robin (Nemire). It was such a blessing to place Wylie in their care each day.

This class experience was the first departure for Wylie from intensive speech and language emphasis. To be sure, Wylie still received therapy from a gifted woman (thank you Mrs. Ferguson!), but speech and language therapy became one part of Wylie’s instructional week instead of its focus. Indeed, there were fifteen students in the class and fifteen different stories and histories incorporated into the class mix. Some children needed speech, some needed other forms of therapy, some could read and write, some could not! This is where Laurel and Robin really made a difference. They worked brilliantly together as a team creating smaller groups of learners. They were diligent to preserve structure—so important to Asperger kids and other special needs children—and yet, creative in their use of time as well. Wylie began to embrace school and for the first time began to participate in relationships with other students within the learning environment Laurel created.

I, too, started forming relationships with the class. The bus schedule for morning pick-up would have required Wylie to ride for almost an hour to get to the campus which is only fifteen minutes from our home. Because of this, I opted to drive Wylie to school. In those initial days of 1st grade, I walked Wylie to his class and watched him play on the swings until the bell rang. Little did I know that my over-protective nature and Wylie’s strong desire for our routine would open the door to several more friendships with other SDC students and teachers. It was natural for me to greet the other students as they arrived and hung up their back packs. Gradually, I learned names. Eventually, I learned stories and heard about everything from birthday parties to family vacations!

It was also my pleasure to volunteer in the classroom once a week and help with parties. I usually brought my guitar so we could make up silly songs or sing Christmas carols. A couple of the higher need children especially warmed to the music. One boy who refused to open his eyes and didn’t speak at all would turn his face to the sound of the guitar and move his hands and smile while we sang. This wasn’t unnoticed by Laurel and Robin and they loved it when I was able to be there. What I learned from being with these children and getting to know them was that they all had pockets of potential; some of the pockets were smaller than others certainly. But, the beauty of the SDC (and, in particular, this class led as it was by our resident arch angels), is in the way it opens up the pockets. It was as if Laurel and Robin were expert tailors (angelic tailors!) able to find just the right combination of curriculum, patience, method, and love to turn the pockets of potential inside out! To literally bring forth the child’s best and build on that level. As a practical matter, this would never happen in a traditional class room for these kids.

Wylie’s progression during these two years is testimony to the hard work and dedication of these two women. But, there are so many other success stories. To really appreciate them, you have to get beyond standardized testing and federally mandated performance measures. How do you quantify or “grade” watching an autistic child who barely makes sounds one can call speech grow over the course of a year to the point where polite conversation can be exchanged? Or, observing a child who could barely trace capital letters—much less recognize them—write his name correctly? Laurel’s abilities opened up pockets of potential inside human lives that will forever change their futures. Her angelic influence in Wylie’s adventure is essential and foundational to his success story. I have no doubt that Laurel and Robin were the guardian angels of Wylie’s potential while he was in their care. Without them, who knows what pockets might have remained closed off to discovery?

Quotable on Joy

From Eugene Peterson's "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction":

  • We come to God because none of us have it within ourselves, except momentarily, to be joyous
  • Joy is a product of abundance; it is the overflow of vitality
  • We can decide to center ourselves in the God who generously gives and not in our own egos which greedily grab
  • Joy is what God gives; not what we work up

I remember singing a bunch of songs in church growing up as a kid:

  • The j-o-y of the Lord is my strength
  • I've got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart-where?
  • Ha-Ha-Ha-le-lu-jah He-He-He saved me ....I've got the joy of the Lord

And, studying Psalm 126 with Peterson as my teacher, I learn again why joy is second only to love in the list of fruit of the spirit. Of course, we must love. But, second to that, we must express and exude joy! As we discussed in our group last night, this has very little to do with our present circumstances and everything to do with our attitude of surrender to Christ.

Billions of dollars are spent on entertainment worldwide. All spent in search Some of that money buys real happiness. For a moment. It is fleeting.

We who follow after Christ have access to something eternal, lasting, and real. And, it doesn't result in a headache the next day either!

Joy to you today.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jump in the Pool With Your Clothes On

That's what I did today.

I needed a "different" perspective.

I needed to cool off.

I needed to do something I normally wouldn't do.

It felt great.

It accomplished everything I hoped it would.

I'll probably do it again...soon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shake Things Up

Our staff meeting rocked this morning: literally!

Earthquakes are a fact of life in California. Big ones are rare, but they do shake things up.

I've lived other places where tornadoes and hurricanes are the "rare" fact of life that shakes things up. But, there is a difference. Tornadoes (generally) and hurricanes are preceded by predictions and warnings. There is a period of preparation. Some people find this comforting. Others find it annoying. You wait for the storm, you listen for the siren, you evacuate or hunker down. You wait. You anticipate.

Earthquakes just happen.

There is no preparation.

There is no warning.

There is no waiting or listening.

So, I've always understood when people outside of California talk about the fear of earthquakes. The idea is that if you cannot prepare for the disaster or wait for the disaster than the danger is greater.

However, I think there is a spiritual parallel here...

The Christian community lives, generally, like people who are accustomed to tornadoes and hurricanes. There will be warnings (of danger or attack). We can prepare once we hear the siren or see the weather report. When, in actuality, spiritual warfare/danger is constantly swirling around us and can strike at any time.

There is no warning.

There is no preparation.

Reminds me we should all live "spiritually" like Californians: earthquakes are happening all the time. It's the just the really big ones that shake us up.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Picture.. worth a thousand words.

I'll write some words, too.
T.G.I.F. camp @ The Oaks was everything I imagined it could be...and more!

Wylie did the zipline.
Wylie did the zipline!
For those of you who have known and loved Wylie as long as I have, I do not need to say anything else.

In fact, everyone (who could) in our group conquered the zipline. It was an awesome afternoon for all.

We packed in archery, zipline, Whale Watch exercise, Kidmo!, fire circle, climbing the bouldering wall, Treasure Hunt, bubble gum art, silly songs, skits, an amazing astronomy lesson about Polaris, we gazed at Jupiter and its four moons, we learned that, according to Ephesians, we are all a part of God's family and that our families are a gift to us. And, incidentally: T.G.I.F. when scrambled spells G.I.F.T!

I could write for hours on all the experiences. For now, I wanted to share with the ZigZag audience that Saturday, July 27th up on the peak of Fox Trail, Wylie climbed up a 25 foot poll, faced his fear, and zigged and zagged across a ravine in the mountains above Lake Hughes, CA.

What a picture.

Friday, July 25, 2008


It's off to camp we go!

In a caravan

We'll eat no SPAM

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho

It's off to camp we go!

With Moms and Dads and kids (not cats)

We'll play and pray @ the Oaks all day...


(will post from camp if I get a signal...)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Guitar Strings

That about sums up what changing guitar strings is like for me.
I need to do it more often to get better at it--like anything else--practice makes perfect.
As I was putting new strings on my Guild acoustic (a beautiful old full body guitar I've had for 2o-some years), it occured to me there are some parallels between guitar strings and life:

  • you don't realize how amazing new strings sound until you take the old ones off--in other words, old patterns of behavior become very familiar and deafen our ears to the beauty of new sounds
  • in order for a fine gauge steel string to make the "sound" of an E (for example), it has to have just the right amount of tension on it (wound between the peg and the tuner). too little tension and it's flat, too much tension and the string breaks. in order for us to produce the "sound" we're supposed to with our potential, it's going to take just the right amount of tension.
  • new strings are shiny
  • old strings are dirty
  • new strings require a lot more tuning to keep them "on pitch" but produce a more brilliant sound than old strings
  • putting new strings on is a chore. it's easier not to change them.
  • new or old, nothing happens on a guitar until you play the strings purposefully!

I have several musician friends that are amazing guitarists (Monty Martin, Brad Turner, Marty Theis to name just a few). I will never play as skillfuly as they do. However, this just makes me want to be a better guitar player. They inspire me.

And, it occurs to me that life is an awful lot like this as well. There will always be others "better" at something, others who aspire to reach our level. We are inspired by others as we inspire others. Whether fine or heavy gauge, old or thine own string be true!


That's where we're headed next.

A Neurologist from Loma Linda will visit with Wylie.

That is going to be interesting. Definitely a zig on our journey.

More to follow (later) on our recent appointment--

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Absolutely 100

ZigZagStraight celebrates 100+ absolute unique visitors from 27 countries. I thought it was worth celebrating.

Of all the page views, 75% are from returning visitors (which means you are drawn back in at least once or twice if you arrive the first time)!

Maybe I should send a Starbucks gift card to lucky #500, or #1000 visitor?

If not that, what would be a good gift?

Monday, July 21, 2008

How Will She Know?

We are going to see Wylie's pediatrician tomorrow. Oddly, she has not played a significant role in Wylie's diagnosis or treatment so far. Dr. Smith was the referring physician in the beginning (over 5 years ago) when he could not understand the boys' speech. Dr. Leparulo took over after that point.

Wylie's latest IEP (Individualized Educational Program) meeting revealed, however, that he would very quickly not qualify for continued services on the basis of speech alone. He has progressed quite well in that area. Still, his other issues persist. So, the process is one of formally identifying Wylie's diagnosis "now".

This should be interesting; how will she know what the last five years have been like? She'll have to read it in his previous IEPs, see it in his behavior in her office, experience it in her own interactions with him. It's rather like preparing for a scab to be picked off...there might be fresh blood, or a scar, or--at the very least--some severe itching and scratching.

We'll see.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Round Jon Virgin

I’ll never forget the first time I deciphered one of the initial phrases my daughter spoke when she was not yet two years old. She and I were best friends and went everywhere together her first two years! We had a Ford Explorer--the first model year. It was a great car; but, the space between the driver’s seat and an infant seat (when turned to the reverse as per safety rules) was just about an inch too far for a loving mother’s hand to reach back and re-insert a lost binky. For this reason, McKenna would often get distraught on drives and cry. Anyone relate?

Apparently, my pet phrase during these times of crying and frustration on her part was,
“I know, buddy”
and I would pat her or just try to soothe her with my words until I could safely pick her up or get her toy or binky back. Over the course of the first two years of her life, I’m sure she heard that phrase over and over again. Well, I know it made an impression on her because later on, when she was a bit older, and she was upset…she would cry and seemingly say

And, Tim and I could not figure out what she needed or wanted! Well, one day—I heard it! She was actually saying back to me what I had always said to her when I was trying to comfort her! My “I know, buddy” turned into her “nobody”. Eureka! She wanted me to comfort her! Don’t we all have these proud parent moments when we break the kid code? And, there’s plenty of these stories circulating through old editions of Readers’ Digest.

You know, the famous lines of Christmas carols kids have famously botched:
“Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright, Round Jon Virgin…”

And so on.

Another favorite of these cracked codes happened in the kitchen with Wylie. As I recall, one of the grandfathers or “Papas” as we refer to them had given us a traditional restaurant white apron and chef’s hat. Since Wylie loved to bake cookies with me, he was the first to don the hat and apron. When we got them out and started to put them on, he gave me the hat and said,
“Ok, Mom—you put the hat on and you can be R.D.”

“What’s that Wylie? What’s my name?”

“R.D.” came the reply.

I was confused, we didn’t know anyone that went by that name and it didn’t make any sense or relate to a current topic of interest for Wylie. Confused and bemused, I put the hat on.
“Ok, I’ll be Chef Boy and wear the apron” Wylie continued with his directions like Scorcese on the set. He knew the recipe by heart and was positioning me on my mark and telling me which ingredients I was responsible for when--suddenly, I got it! Picture the can of spaghetti sauce and meatballs your mother might have served you when you were little. It has a red label, a rotund chef pictured in a white hat and apron on the logo. I know it’s on the tip of your tongue. And, it was also promoted heavily during this season with a cute commercial where the cans would hop off the shelf and follow the kids through the aisles in the grocery store.

No doubt this is what inspired Wylie.

What’s the brand???

Chef Boyardee. Of course.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Newport Beach

Tim swam the Balboa to Newport piers race in 51 minutes today. That's pretty decent! Tim loves swimming and he really enjoys the rough water swims. We hung out and just enjoyed being there.

Growing up in So Cal, the beach is so nostalgic. We spent many summers with my grandparents (reference my 100 year old grandpa!) at Dohenie State Beach and San Clemente camping. I wrote a couple of good songs on the sand, listening to the waves, looking at the moon.

There were families from every demographic there today; I love that about the beach, too. It doesn't matter where you work/live, what you do (or don't) for a living...we all love the sand, the surf, and the sun!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wylie Hears a Who

Yesterday, as I was getting ready to go into the pool, Wylie comes into our room and says:

"Mom, thanks for saving me from not existing".

As you might imagine, that statement gave me pause.

After a moment, I asked "What do you mean"?

Wylie went on to explain that some people save dogs from going to the pound. And, since I agreed to give birth to Wylie, I saved him from "not exisiting". And, he was quite grateful.

This brought to my mind the line from the Dr. Seuss book (and film we saw earlier this year):

"A person's a person no matter how small".....

At the risk of misunderstanding Wylie, I think it's fairly clear that he is pro-life...

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Thank God Its Family....Camp!

Next Friday!

I can hardly wait! Our church plant, Solid Ground Christian Fellowship, is sponsoring our very first family camp at the Oaks ( in Lake Hughes, CA. This is a gorgeous little piece of property tucked up behind the mountains north of LA. World Impact partners with the Oaks to provide outdoor education and spiritual formation for inner-city youth all year round.

By camping at The Oaks, part of that income stream will flow to World Impact and their important work can continue.

McKenna and I enjoyed her 5th grade science camp at The Oaks; it was life-changing for the kids and for me. I was so impressed with the staff (and happy we will see the Meidals and the Arbuckles again), the programming, the beautiful space, the night hike, the zip line, the simplicity of being away from our normal environment...I could not wait to bring a group back.

Two years and two months later, we return!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

5 Reasons I Love Tennis

I'm not very good.

But, I've come up with 5 reasons I enjoy tennis and keep playing (even at my "advanced"'s been three years since I exceeded the third point value in the game).

  1. Even if your serve is off you can still win by playing well defensively.
  2. There is no time to mourn a bad shot; you have to set up for the next one.
  3. There are fundamentals that can create a good game, but there is always room for "scrappy" shots and surprise points.
  4. Worthy opponents always compliment one another on good play.
  5. The better you know your opponent, the better your chance of winning.

If you love a sport, chances are some of these reasons could show up on your list, too. And, it's no secret that sport is a metaphor for life. Anyone ever "faulted" somehow at work and given up a few points, yet still ultimately succeeded by coming up with a good defensive stategy? Letting go of mistakes and failing forward to success are essential life skills. Sometimes the fundamentals of a situtaion may be stacked against you; still if you are creative and don't give up in your mind, you can make a "scrappy" move and surprise yourself and your peers. Complimenting and encouraging one another is simply good manners and holds with a lot of ancient wisdom. And, spiritually speaking, when we are aware of our opponent's tactics it is much more likely he won't get the best of us.

Love all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Jonas Bros. Hannah vs. HSM Team

OK: who would win in this ultimate showdown:

Jonas Brothers and Mylie versus Zack and the HSM team?

Cast your votes!

It's my Birthday

I am not a boomer.

I am a Gen-Xer by a couple years (depending on the demographer).

But, I am a "mature" Gen-Xer--not wholly given over to self-indulgence and excess (ref. "Less Than Zero")

And, I still have a lot of faith in people and a few institutions. Especially people and those institutions that create environments for community.

So, happy birthday to me.

There shall be no painting today!

The blue iDen wall will have to wait.

Monday, July 14, 2008


As has been noted, McDonalds is Wylie’s favorite eating establishment. The drive thru staff is well-acquainted with my car, my order, my children, my life. (In a small town, one can hardly be inconspicuous in a pink Cadillac when your McNuggets are one of the two food groups your son enjoys)! So, I greet the employees by name and smile and make the most of my “most favored customer” status at our local McDonalds. One day, while driving past the hallowed hall of the golden arches in our town, Wylie—out of the blue—says to me:

“Mom, why didn’t Jesus put our house where McDonalds is?”

Now, I’m a reasonably bright individual and am pretty quick on my feet when it comes to witty repartee, but this stumped me. I dug for more information.

“What do you mean, Wylie?”

“Our house could be anywhere, why didn’t Jesus put it there where McDonalds is?”

“Well” I began to explain, “our house was built as a part of the Chapman Heights neighborhood and …”

My answer went off on a tangent about planning commissions and developers and building codes. None of this really sufficiently answered the question for Wylie and it consistently came up over the next few months. Not only was he consumed with “why” Jesus put our house where it was and the McDonalds where it was, he was also particularly interested in what happens after we die. He had learned somewhere that, in his own words, we “turned to dust” and this was of great concern to him. His line of questioning began to diverge from locations of homes and restaurants to the locations of departed souls! And, all of this at the ripe old age of 7! (These conversations have formed the basis of what should follow under a separate cover for future publication: Judeo-Christian Thought According to Wylie. But, some of the most precious of these meditations bear repeating here, if only to give you some more insight into the depth of an Asperger child’s mental capacities).

So, our daily conversations during this theological period would range from addresses to the after-life. I found myself deconstructing the whole of what I have taken thirty years to understand spiritually into manageable parts for my son to digest. For the most part, Wylie consumed my offerings without objection. However, there was one course that proved most difficult for him and that had to do with my own eventual passing. This emerged over a period of a month or two when Wylie would whisper to me in the middle of cooking dinner or at a ball game, eyes glistening with sincere tears:

“Mom, I don’t want you to have any more birthdays.”


“Because I don’t want you to get old and turn to dust!”

Now, as a parent, you can go down the slippery-slope of denial and revert to the pat and untrue response of “that’s not going to happen…” But, out of honesty and integrity, I just could not take the road. So, I chose another path, most likely the one less traveled by.

“Wylie, I don’t want to turn to dust either, but do you understand that if I’m not here with you, I’ll be in heaven? And, heaven is a wonderful awesome place full of all the things we love the most. It’s like a party! And, I’ll be waiting there for you!”

This explanation was met with silence and a nod of acquiescence. But, the subject would come up several more times. Finally, in the kitchen one day after making chocolate chip cookies together (one of his favorite things to eat and to do!) Wylie emphatically said in a breaking voice:

“Mom, please don’t have any more birthdays. I don’t want to be here without you.”

“Wylie, I’m probably going to be here with you for a very long time, but if I get old and die I will go to heaven and wait for you. And, remember, heaven is a wonderful”---but, Wylie cut me off.

“Mom, our house is heaven to me.”

And, now my own eyes were instantly wet with tears. The layers of meaning in this one statement from my little theologian were as numerous as the chocolate chips in the cookie dough we had just made. All I could do was hug him.

“I love our home, too, Wylie. Let’s do our best to not be afraid of the other heaven, ok? It will be just like our home…only better! If you get there first, you look for me and if I get there first, I’ll look for you, deal?” With a hug and a cookie to seal the deal, he didn’t mention it again. However, this was only the beginning of a conversation that will no doubt continue as long as I’m… not dust.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Small vs. Big

Today, after listening to Louis Giglio talk about the cosmos, the Milky Way, and the little blue dot in the (now famous) Voyager picture...I realize I am small.

This planet, Earth, is small.

Our solar system, is small.

Any problems I have: small.

Any challenges I am going to face: small.

My grocery list: small.

My laundry pile: small.

The Milky Way: big.

The "Known" Universe: big.

The God who created it all: big.

And, yet, a careful reading of scripture suggests God knows this small person--zigging and zagging through her life on the blue dot--has a name.

That's big.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

ZigZag Stats

Ok, I admit it: I'm a statistics geek. How can you willingly sign up for more than the required course in economics and not have a little bit of the numbers geek in you?

So starting this blog has resulted in some intriguing and very satisfying "instant gratification" statistics thanks to Google Analytics. The economist in me thinks there is already some interesting supply and demand elements at work in the "consumption" and "production" of the site. At the risk of putting some of you to sleep:

  • readers from 26 different countries have visited
  • return visitors are predominantly from the U.S. and largely from California (no surprise here)
  • Wednesday and Saturdays have been the most popular nights
  • the number of page views increased by 100 just today
  • the number of "absolute" visitors almost doubled just today

Students of statistics know correlation is not causation (however if you read Chris Anderson's piece or Kevin Kelley's piece in the newest edition of Wired he might persuade you that is all about to change with the power of our data worldwide), still this struck me as noteworthy!

One of my doctor friends says that diagnosis is mostly ruling out things in a patient and/or explaining symptoms by common sense. With this in mind, the recent increase in views and new visitors could be do to:

  • my good friends viewing the blog from their parents' computers while on holiday for the weekend
  • my husband telling all his pilot friends to sign on (at the same time tonight) wherever they are in the world
  • there's a new drink called a ZigZag and everyone was googling it to get the ingredients
  • lost souls with nothing better to do thought they'd really get crazy and do a blog search starting with the Zs first

No matter; whatever the cause, the numbers tell a story and will continue to amuse me for days and weeks to follow. Stay tuned for more progress on the iDen over the weekend.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Seen and Heard

My grandfather is 100 years old this year (2008).

He is an amazing person full of vitality and wit! He is blessed in mind and body. To be sure, he has some visible signs of his age: a cane, brown spots speckle his face and hands, and a shiny row of new teeth peek out behind his lips when he smiles. But, other than these, he truly is remarkable and nobody would guess his years. I attribute this to the habit he developed early on in his life of always being busy.

As far back as I can remember, my grandfather was always doing something. Whether it was in his magical lush backyard or at the church property or trimming a neighbor’s yard, he was always happily engaged in physical activity. This kept him physically fit and also spiritually fit, too. He wasn’t always thinking about himself. Some might call my grandfather a simple man. In our increasingly complex and high-stress culture, that sounds like something worth striving for…simplicity.

We celebrated grandpa’s birthday two years ago at a local chain restaurant. All three of my siblings were there with a good showing of the great-great grand children as well. Of course, my three were in attendance. Wylie does pretty well now in noisy crowded restaurants. (He used to hide under the tables). He typically wears his hoody up over his ears and brings a toy to play with so as to distract from all the noise. For this fete, he was seated next to my younger brother, Rusty. Rusty is a card. He is funny. He loves my kids and enjoys joking with them. Wylie and Rusty were making small talk and eventually Rusty noticed that Wylie was left-handed. Rusty commented to me,

“I didn’t know Wylie was left handed”.

“Both boys are” I replied.

And, we began to discuss all the famous people who are left handed and how I had read that a disproportionate number of American presidents have been left handed and what the implications were. Wanting to participate in the conversation, Wylie asked my brother,
“Uncle Rusty, are you left handed?”

“No, I’m ambidextrous” my brother said matter-of-factly.

Waiting just a few moments and curling up his brow Wylie then asks,

“Are you s-u-u-u-u-r-r-r-e you’re from Texas?”

And with that Rusty promptly did a spit-take with his beverage and the whole table exploded in laughter. It just doesn’t get any better. Wylie had no idea what he said that was so funny. He just processed what he heard.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

iDen Before

Here is Campbell in front of one of the den walls ("before"). It was all pastoral...meadows, skies, planets, and stars.

Why McKenna Will be Famous

This was on our table covering at the Macaroni Grill. It is a "reproduction" of their menu.

It's on my office door now.


Watch Uranus!

So, we're painting the playroom upstairs. It has been decorated circa 2002 when all the kids were quite small. Alphabet border, chalkboard paper, maps, and a fully 3-D solar system hanging from the ceiling.

Yesterday, we were doing the walls furthest from the sun.

As I'm up on the ladder cutting in on the top by the ceiling, Wylie shouts out a warning:

"Watch Uranus, Mom!"

Now, there's only two ways to take that advice...

My first impression was to check my shorts.

But, then I realized: he was spot on--Uranus was hanging dangerously close to the door trim and the wall and I had, in fact, got some acid green primer on the back side of Uranus. The planetary landscape has been changed permanently I'm afriad.

What is most amusing and interesting to me is that I've always had to sing a little song to recognize the planets (except for Saturn--I'm good with identifying that one. And, I've got Earth down). But, the for the rest, I have to sing this little song:
Oh the Sun's a bright star
Mercury's hot too
Venus is the Brightest planet
Earth's home to me and you
Mars is the red one
Jupiter's most wide
Saturn's got those icy rings
and Uranus spins on it's side
Neptune's really windy
Pluto's really small
You wanted to name them planets
And now we've named them all
(Thanks Blue and Steve)
That's the only way I can remember them. Wylie: he could pick out Uranus in a line-up at the Cosmic Police Station any day. Me: they all look the same.
So, as we paint today, I will be "checking six" more often. And, I'll make sure Uranus stays warm and dry, too.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What's in a Nugget?

Here is a complete list of the things Wylie currently eats:
McDonalds Chicken McNuggets
McDonalds French Fries
McDonalds Apple Dippers
Burger King Chicken Fries
Burger King French Fries
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches with the bread lightly toasted
Pepperidge Farms Goldfish preferably out of the giant box
Chocolate Chip Cookies of any kind but preferably homemade
Fruit Snacks
Eggos Blueberry waffles
Belgian waffle if forced to and under threat of no video games
Fruit Loops Captain Crunch Honeycomb cereals dry
Tortilla chips
Club crackers
Carrots (fresh only) if forced to under threat of no video games
Apple Juice
Kool Aid Jammers

Here is a complete list of things Wylie used to eat:
Grilled cheese sandwiches
Chicken strips all makes and models
French Fries all makes and models
Vanilla Wafers
Graham Crackers
Fruit cocktail
Veggies cubed and cooked
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where and when Wylie began to identify certain foods as those that “make me sick”. To be sure, some of the foods on the list above have been added or subtracted from the list only after being spewed forth from Wylie’s mouth into the kitchen trash can. (Yes, I mean vomit—throw-up—puke city). No, this child is not simply being stubborn. Trying a bite of something new for Wylie would be like you or I being urged to try a bite of…caterpillar or cow pie or castor oil. It is not pretty and it doubles the stress of the entire household whenever it is attempted (which explains the dwindling number of attempts!).
Culinary peculiarities are normal with Asperger kids. Eating involves more than just taste; our olfactory senses are operating, our tactile systems are fully operational. In short, there are so many ways a food can prove offensive to a child with heightened sensory processing, that only a precious few make it all the way into his stomach! Mix that in with a normal childhood aversion to trying new things and you get…Wylie’s diet.

I have learned to accept this as part of the adventure. My twinges of guilt only flare when I am hanging out with families whose mothers have fed their children only pure wholesome goodness since birth. (You know the type—those who can tell you with 99% accuracy the amount of sugar and complex carbohydrates their young have consumed by the hour and also manage to have healthy snacks with them whenever and wherever they go). During these associations I try to avoid the subject of meals and diet. And, like a co-dependent relating to their 12 step partner, I’m sure it appears I am in deep, deep denial. But, it is what it is. God was kind to me some time back when I was confessing my maternal food sin to another mother of practical fast-food convenience. I revealed to her that very week I had been to Burger King not once, but two times!
She replied back,
“Oh, my rule of thumb is no more than twice a day so you’ve got a long way to go before a violation in my book”.

Although I immediately felt pardoned and the weight of my guilt was lifted, I can’t be sure she was an ordained official of the motherhood church. It was a bit like the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street seeking absolution from Mrs. Fields…

Monday, July 7, 2008

Waiting for iPublish

Tonight has seen me researching "POD" for ZigZagStraight.

(No, that's not problems of democracy if you are a Gen-X-er and it's not an alternative rock band if you are a Gen-Y-er).

It's publishing-on-demand. There's a ton out there.

What is good? What is evil?

Makes me wish apple would just release the "iPublish"...wait, maybe they have...

The iDen is Coming...

The orange walls are primered! The acid green wall primer is next. Then the blue wall.
Everyone painted! Will post pictures soon...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

This Little Piggy Hates Shoes

Perhaps it was the little incident on day 2 of moving into our new home in Yucaipa that ruined any potential love affair between Wylie and shoes. The house was newly built: white stark walls, pristine tile, brand new carpet. We literally had no furniture as we awaited the shipment from storage to arrive from our cross-country move. My parents had given us a couple things to get by; one of those things was a unique round table that came originally from a library. It was only two feet off the ground and had a unique square base in the exact center of the table. We did not realize how unstable it was--until Wylie pushed down on one side of it…on day number 2.

Blood immediately squirted out and splattered all over the light colored carpet that only seconds ago was pristine and new. The delayed but inevitable cry was building inside Wylie’s lungs as his body began to process what had happened. The big toe (wasn’t he the one that went to market?) was smashed, covered in blood and no doubt throbbing with a pain I’m sure Wylie had never experienced before. He was only 3 years old. I grabbed a dish towel and picked him up to comfort him. Wiping away the blood initially, I examined the injury to assess my next step. It looks bad. Twenty minutes later, it won’t stop bleeding.

I begin to mentally rehearse my introductions to our new neighbors. “Hi, nice to meet you, can you keep my two children while I take this one to the ER?”
It had a nice ring to it. And, that’s exactly what I said to our neighbor two doors away. What a nice way to jump into neighborhood relations! First, I’m counting on someone I do not know with my two healthy kids. Second, I’m taking the injured bleeding sensory kid to an ER and don’t know how long I’ll be there. Pilot’s wives have many stories in this genre; if bad things are going to happen they tend to while the pilot is away.

Once we got to the hospital, day 2 didn’t get any better for Wylie; in fact, it got much worse. We were seen fairly quickly. But, it rapidly went downhill for my boy. See, this all transpired pre-diagnosis. I only knew how to care for Wylie as a typical child. Typical children are freaked out by doctor’s visits and injuries; an Asperger child is probably wanting to crawl out of his skin to avoid the sensations they are subjected to in this environment. By now, Wylie’s big toe is twice the size of the other. The attending physician explains they need to drill it out with tiny holes to relieve the pressure. Then, he will have to be seen again to determine if the bone is affected.
No one in that ER was prepared for the fight this child put up. Wylie turned into an aggravated octopus. I held onto Wylie’s right side including his arm, another male nurse had his good leg and foot, the male doctor held the exploding toe and a fourth nurse restrained his left side. With four strong adults, he still fought and wrangled and screamed until he was hoarse. His desperate tears were covering his face. All I could do was focus on holding my part of the octopus. I had to disassociate myself from the scene in order not to make one of my own. It was horrible.
The doctor somehow managed to drill the holes into the slippery tentacle he was holding. He bandaged it up; it was oversized and made out of white gauze—
it reminded me of all the exaggerated bandages I had seen in early sixties cartoons.

For Wylie, the remainder of day 2 was spent chain-smoking his fingers. That evening, he slept like a champion prize fighter after a title bout. Of course, Wylie couldn’t wear shoes for a couple weeks. This suited him just fine. And, I believe established a protocol wherein shoes are a necessary evil only to be suffered when school safety codes and decorum dictate. The increasingly popular Teva-type shoe is a decent exception to this protocol. However, the Teva has not completely been embraced by third grade PE teachers, so evil is suffered at 7:40 a.m. each school morning. Weekends are for flip flops, baby! Six years later, the injured toe is still a good third bigger than the other. A subtle reminder that some furniture is better for bonfires than business (we immediately destroyed the table), some days are better than others (most have been better than day 2), and some feet will always be better without shoes.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Open Wide and Say "Ugh"

The Dental Arts.
Probes, sticks and spit.
Drills, drains, and migraines.
I know they get a bad rap all the time, every time, but, in Wylie’s case, the poor kid never had a chance for a good relationship with a dentist. It’s like a scene from a Tim Burton film...

ACT I: (The door opens slowly with a creak and before the first step is taken into the waiting area the whirring of the mechanical drill is heard in the background. Women with eyeballs only (masks cover up their noses and mouths) immediately come out dressed in crazy clothes and rubber shoes. The smell begins to tickle your nostrils…is it soap? Flouride? Cheap cologne? Why are there so many old children’s books on the table? Perhaps the children who owned those books never returned once they went down the hall into the chair of doom. What good could possibly come from the dreaded dentist’s chamber…)

Assistant: Wylie? Come on back! Sit here in this chair and let me put a bib on you.
Wylie: What’s that smell? (over the louder drill sound)
Dentist: What smell?
Wylie: That smell I’m smelling!
Dentist: Just relax, open wide and say—
Wylie: AGGGHHH! What’s that stick? No, I don’t want to,

–(screen fades to black as the whirring noise of the drill gets louder and louder and the gagging and spitting, screams and protestations of the children rise in one terrifying chorus!)

Well, dramatic effects aside, a dental visit pretty much pegs the panic-meter for a child with Sensory Integration Dysfunction and Asperger. It’s right up there with haircuts by dads and grandpas! Anticipating this might be the case, I chose a pediatric dental practice on purpose. I prayed they would have a solution for Wylie’s dental health. Dr. Wyatt, a very patient and caring doctor, did everything she could to examine Wylie. He did everything he could to resist. (Wylie has the gag reflex of a super model after a weekend binge). Even though Dr. Wyatt could not give him a full exam, she was able to see one of Wylie’s teeth had no enamel and would need a crown to protect it. With his hyper-sensitivity, she explained they would have to anesthetize him to proceed.

Ok, I can allow my son’s teeth to literally rot in his head or I can pay $1700 for the privilege of having him completely put under to perform routine dental work on him. As a parent, what are you going to do? (Oh, and let me explain that at the time our dental insurance was severely lacking, so we were paying 100% out-of-pocket for this process—lucky us!) Well, we made the appointment to have Wylie “put under”—complete with the signed release stating we understood Wylie could die and it’s not their fault! To this day, the TWO times we had to have this done were the hardest things medically I’ve endured with any of the children. Watching them put the needle in his shoulder and then seeing his eyelids roll back and his body go limp was horrible. I cried! Seeing him in the chair reclined with the tube taped on his mouth was so frightening. You can imagine when we had to do this the second time how much more resistant Wylie was: he knew what was coming, knew the doctor was going to come out with a shot, knew he was going to be sick afterwards. It wrenched my heart to literally see the terror in his eyes before he blacked out.

Even with all the drama, there were lighter moments in the ordeal. Dr. Wacker performed the procedures on Wylie while he was sedated. He was aware of Wylie’s issues including his aversion to haircuts; he let me know ahead of time I could bring my scissors in and give Wylie a trim while he was under! (for $1700 I could have flown Bill Clinton’s stylist in, but he was booked!) He also saw that Wylie’s front teeth were loose and anticipated he might really dislike the whole process of losing the teeth naturally, so we agreed to have them pulled during the visit.

Once Wylie woke up and we got him in the car, he was horribly groggy. He could barely hold his head up and it bobbed up and down. Despite his lack of muscle control, he could sense his front two teeth were gone. He demanded to see a mirror. I pulled the compact out of my purse and let him see himself. He immediately exclaimed,
“What happened to my teeth!!?”
Quickly I said “The tooth fairy took them!”
Without any hesitation he said--with Jack Nicholson intensity—
“Tell the tooth fairy I want them back!”
And, this he demanded over and over again all the way home and the rest of the day. He never forgave the tooth fairy for taking his teeth without his permission. And, he never wanted to return to the dentist again. Of course, this is an ongoing challenge with Wylie, but it has produced the best oral hygiene habits in our home. Wylie is a diligent brusher; he believes brushing will keep him from starring in the next Burton sequel: “The Nightmare Before Abscess”…

The Cam Mac

Coming soon to a drive-thru near you...the Cam-Mac Burger.

It was the envy of the entire crowd of people at Harris Ranch for the 4th celebration.

Two-all-beef-patties-ketchup sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onion on a sesame-seedless bun.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

Once upon a time, a little boy watched fireworks from our bedroom veranda with a headset on to cover his ears.

Tonight, he will fully enjoy the sights and sounds of the Freedom Fest from our backyard...out with the people, amongst the chaos, part of the pageantry.

It is a day to celebrate all the acts of courage committed by the Founding Fathers of our country, their spouses, their children. And, a day to celebrate all the acts of courage ordinary people commit to foster independence in special children as well.

Thank you: Lavonne, Bonnie, Laurel, Dana, Laura, Robyn, Mrs. Ferguson, Cheryl, Patti, Mrs. Pleiss, Mrs. Matlock, Ms. Shva, Gayle, Tracy, Stephanie, Coach Carter, Mr. Spencer, Coach Trevor, Coach Kathy, Mrs. Sharon, Mr. Bob, Mrs. Gayle...and those who will continue this work in the future.

Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Did I Say That Out Loud?

All of us say things we regret.

At the very least, we recognize that certain things should not be said, but this is not necessarily true of people with Asperger. One of the traits of the disorder is a marked lack of what we would refer to as “tact”. Some researchers theorize that the area of the brain responsible for emotional intelligence is physically different in an Asperger individual. (What I envision are certain synapses with disconnects. There might be one labeled “common courtesy in conversation”. In an ordinary person, this synapsis fires signals through the brain that process feedback from others we are communicating with. A smile is processed as pleasant and serves as a sort of “green light” in communication whereas a frown might be like a “yellow light” saying caution). Children are given to brutal honesty as they grow up anyway; the difference with the Asperger child is that you literally have to teach them what is appropriate and what is not. In other words, I might have to explain to Wylie that what he just said made someone sad or angry or hurt. I have to connect the word with “yellow light”, or “red light” until he learns the signal. Other children seem to learn this independently.

Thankfully our verbal accidents have been mild with no major injuries reported. For your amusement, here is a list of things Wylie has said out loud to people alongside a list of the victims. Have some fun and see if you can match up the observations with the subject.

“Boy, that’s an old neck” Nana (grandma)
“Why are you so black?” Great Grandpa Kelley
“_____, why are you so fat?” School Bus Driver
“You ate your baby?” Me
“_______, your legs are kinda big” Pregnant neighbor

What’s great about this list is that all of the people involved were very gracious. Some of the responses were priceless. When Wylie asked our wonderful school bus driver (who is African-American) why he was so black, he simply said “Because I AM black!” and laughed and laughed at Wylie. He had been driving the Special Day Class kids for months and knew and appreciated all of their individual quirks. Grandpa Kelley said “It matches the rest of my parts!” after Wylie commented on how old his neck was. Equally as magnanimous was Nana, Wylie’s grandmother, when he commented on her tummy. She chuckled and explained that it had a little bit to do with her love of food.
When Wylie began to notice our neighbor, Sonia, was growing quite a belly of her own due to pregnancy, he asked her what was in her stomach. She said “a baby” and that’s when Wylie exclaimed “You ate your baby?” Finally, I was the last victim in the list above when I came downstairs in some shorts one summer and Campbell said “Mom, you look cute like you’re 15 or something” which brought a big smile to my face. I was about to thank Campbell for the compliment when Wylie added “Yeah, except your legs are kinda big”. That zapped the thanks right out of me, but made me chuckle, too. And, so, part of my role with Wylie is that of Verbal Traffic Patrol; I signal to him when he can proceed and when he needs to slow down and use caution. I cannot physically connect those disconnected brain synapses, but I can train him to use other parts of his brain that work effectively to get along on the social highway with minimal collisions. He is learning to read others’ emotions and even apologizes quickly when he errs in his speech. After all, “…to err is human”… and forgiveness is a way of life on Asperger street.

The Emperor's New Groove

"So, Mom, what is my life story? You know, like the Emperor has a 'new groove'..."

This was the question last night.

I suggested "Wylie's World" (a la Wayne's World, but that is before his time and he will likely not take offense).

Then he begins talking about all the things that define "Wylie's World". It is a very interesting conversation. It involves things like "my diet, do you know what my diet is, Mom?", and the church we go to and the games he plays.

Finally, he says--with all sincerity--"I want you to be in my world, Mom. What will you do?" How priceless is that? I give him a couple ideas of my role and what fun we could have and we agree on my particular assignment in his world.

These are the conversations that keep me consistently intrigued by my son. His whole life is a metaphor. (Philosophically, all our lives are a metaphor, but most 10 year old boys don't actively define and create the metaphor like Wylie does).

Imagine for a moment the strategic possibilities of living like this...

You choose the "metaphor" for your life.

You begin to place the people, things, events, and purposes in your world that have meaning for you. You shape the environment. You decide how an event or experience is filtered to your emotions and your thoughts. If you are threatened or wounded, you create a "character" or a "super power" that helps you to process that experience. You don't necessarily take it personally.

One of the exercises speech pathologists and psychologists suggest for sensory kids is the creation of "power cards" or "power stories". Essentially, it is exactly the same process as figuring out the emperor's new groove.

For example, if your child hates/fears/vomits at haircuts (reference earlier post), you create a story that has a character that doesn't like haircuts and through the story show how the character learns to cope with them and face the fear. How cool is that? In a way, the power story helps the brain to imagine a different way of experiencing the same thing. Think childbirth: Lamaze breathing anyone? Wasn't that whole deal just a power story for "it really doesn't hurt that bad?"

Wylie's World. The Emperor's New Groove. The Wizard of Oz. ZigZagStraight.

It actually seems like a brilliant way to live to me.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Who is Her Teacher There?

Wylie experienced kindergarten in a special day class taught by Miss Dana. She was another gifted Speech and Language therapist that would make such a difference in Wylie’s life. Educational services for children like Wylie were initially provided by the county in our area; therefore, this particular class had children with various diagnoses ranging from high functioning autism spectrum disorders to Downs Syndrome, to other physically limiting cases. One of the highlights of that year was the class play. It was a classic retelling of “The Three Little Pigs”. Wylie was cast as the Big Bad Wolf.

The costumes were adorable and included color-dyed t-shirts with the name of the character stamped on them (Wylie’s was brown with the letters “w-o-l-f” in black) and little ears glued to headbands. A program was distributed with the featured actors and everyone’s photo and credits. Picture this: a dramatic play starring kids who, for the most part, don’t maintain eye contact nor speak clearly and are given to outburst, tantrums, or emotional come-aparts. As I think of it, that sounds just about right for Hollywood! The props were excellent: card board boxes big enough for the “pigs” to hide in painted to resemble straw, sticks, and bricks. The curtain was two sheets painted with whimsical designs. What a delight this experience was for us and for Wylie. He nailed his performance, “Little Pig, Little Pig, let me in!” and then, “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff...” never before were the lines uttered with such precision and character. It was a milestone for Wylie and the other children.

One of the other children in this class had struggled with a weakened heart most of her life. Although I don’t know her exact diagnosis, the heart problem had caused her other difficulties and she obviously could not learn in a traditional environment. Her name was Hayleigh. Over Christmas break, Hayleigh was to have an operation (not the first) and the children were aware she might miss a bit of school. Tragically, she would not return. Her body was not strong enough to survive the surgery. Everyone was struck with grief. The teachers thoughtfully sent a letter home so we could prepare our child for Hayliegh’s noticeable absence once they returned to class. I considered the subject carefully before approaching Wylie.

In our family, we believe children go to heaven when they die and have taught our own kids that Jesus loves the little children…just like the song. I decided to be pragmatic when I began the conversation with Wylie.

“Wylie, you know Hayleigh, your friend from school” I said as gently as I could.


“She won’t be coming to school anymore” I explained.

Wylie asked “Is she staying home?”

I said “No”.

Wylie asked “Where is she going to school then?”

I said “In heaven.”

Without missing a beat Wylie says

“Oh, who is her teacher there?”

This opened the door for a thoughtful conversation about Hayleigh’s “change of school”. I could tell Wylie was a bit sad she was no longer going to be in his class, however the full realization of heaven and what happens to us when we die was not on his radar…yet. It was (and is) a subject he would come back to in the future. This was one of many examples of Wylie’s literal thinking and speaking.

Though these children live in their private imaginary worlds most of the day, they sometimes refuse to enter yours. This makes irony and joke-telling relatively useless and can lead to situations where typical parent-child roles are reversed. For example, that same holiday season after the “Three Little Pigs”, our neighbors built an elaborate display of Santa and his reindeer in their front yard complete with a stuffed Santa and Mrs. Claus riding shot gun in the sleigh. One morning, pulling out of our drive, I observed Mrs. Claus was missing. I commented on her absence and wondered aloud if she was up at the north pole helping Santa with the toys. Wylie stopped smoking long enough to clue-me-in: “Mom-Mom, they are just plush toys”. After a pause and quick glance in the rearview mirror at McKenna, the car erupted in laughter. We often find ourselves as a family entertained by Wylie’s wit, quips and questions. It is one of the delightful zigzags of the Asperger mind.

Goldfish Galore

This just in:

Wylie--after carefully smelling and chewing gingerly and inspecting the expiration date--ate goldfish out of the paper container. Not the big box. This is headline-worthy news. Definitely a zag.....

Autism and the Pentagon

My way cool husband alerted me to this piece in today's Washington Times:

It gives voice to the scope of autism and explains what one branch of the government is attempting to do for families.

It's a Small World After All

ZigZagStraight (the blog) has only been in existence for a week. Although my interests are broad, the topic of Asperger and living with an Asperger child is pretty narrow. Even so, people from 8 different countries have dropped in for a visit since last week. This blows my mind! Now, as an economist, I understand that a page view does not an "addicted reader" make. However, it does underscore the idea that the world is a much smaller place thanks to virtual space.

Many of my friends and most of my family are not "into" online community like I am. Quite frankly, I'm addicted to and consider a daily reading of essential. But, it's a healthy addiction (if there is such a thing!) The power of dialogue/connection/community is virtually unlimited and could be radically transforming in the neighborhoods, cities, states, and the countries where we live.
Maybe what I love most is this: our kids only know this small world. To them, an answer to an interesting question is a google search away. Their minds are not limited by the distance between them and the closest library. There is a downside to all of this, I know. But, I think the positives outweigh the negatives.

"There's so much that we share that it's time we're's a small world afterall".....

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Would You Could You...In a Book?

So, I'm curious about you readers...(I know there are at least a dozen or so of you now)....would you/could you read more of "ZigZagStraight" in a book? There's enough writing for a book and I'd like to publish the stories, but am honestly wanting your opinion. Would you prefer a book-format or is the blog doing it for you?

Awaiting your opinions....

Making Sense

I don’t know at what point we stopped cracking the video or digital camera out to record our kids’ events, holidays, and parties. It was a long time ago. I think we got to the point where we were so stressed about capturing the moments on film we were not enjoying the actual moments! So, the camera sits in the closet. We have a few “videos” (or are they “digitals”?) of the kids before we moved away from Charleston, SC. These are precious: two little toddlers in our gorgeous, lush backyard, McKenna drawing her first (of many famous) pictures on her Magna Doodle, my grandfather when he visited.

I remember watching some random footage of the kids outside on a spring day. We had reviewed these images before for the “ah” effect. You know, “Ah, they are all so cute”. On this occasion I felt I uncovered a mystery. I asked Tim to rewind a certain spot: Wylie’s Asperger-behaviors were all over these spring images. Like a forensic scientist traces clues backwards from a crime scene or an event, I examined these old scenes with new eyes and saw a world of evidence supporting Wylie’s Asperger-ness.

For your consideration, ladies and gentlemen, I present Exhibit A: we were all outdoors and the kids are running and rambling back and forth in front of the camera. Wylie moves rhythmically (even as a two year old) in a pattern that is sometimes still evident. He scadoos, smokes his fingers, hums, and remains detached even when the other two children are involved in daddy’s videography. More poignant is the footage of their 2 year birthday party.

May I present, Exhibit B: there were six to eight adults and as many children—all familiar. Yet, during this selection, Tim is carrying Wylie on his shoulders for a portion of it and you can tell he (Wylie) is completely out of sorts. He puts his head down behind Tim’s avoids eye contact, cries and whimpers. Tim tries to have him taste some ice cream and he strongly resists the spoon and its chilly substance. You even hear me in the background explaining away his behavior to the other parents. What was obvious now to me (as the forensic-mommy-scientist), is that Wylie’s sensory perception was maxed. In the pictures, he is using every coping mechanism he has and it’s not working. Too many people, too many noises, too many voices. He crumbles and I end up taking him upstairs to put him to bed with one of his beloved blankets while Campbell enjoys the rest of the party.

Watching these scenes is difficult; the clues were everywhere. We just did not see them. Now, they made sense for the first time. And, the sense they made saddened me. My son was not experiencing “normal” events in a normal way. His brain did not allow him to do so. There we all were almost forcing him to enjoy things he found terrifying--or at least incredibly uncomfortable. It would not be the last time my eyes would fill with tears at the thought of how much he went through before we began to understand him. Reviewing the evidence made me sad; but, it also ushered in a new compassion for him and for all kinds of different people. I began to see evidence all the time and became quite accustomed to viewing the world through an Asperger lens. And, just like Alice in Wonderland, I found looking through the glass irresistible.