Saturday, June 29, 2019

An End of an Era? Dean's Camp Years

2019 -- Dean is running a game and the fog machine.
Dean wrapped up three weeks of camp counseling on Friday. This theater and stage combat camp has been a part of Dean's life for eight years now. He has looked forward to it every year. He started as a young camper in 2012 and rose through the ranks to junior counselor last year and full camp counselor this year. This feels like an end of an era to me, as I suspect that this was his last year. He found the camp a bit boring this year and very repetitive from years past. They basically change the theme each year, but the games and activities stay the same. That has never mattered before, but this year he felt bored and like there wasn't enough work to do to keep him busy. The camp was different this year because there were too many junior counselors to the amount of campers. In addition, one counselor whom Dean has had issues with for many years was very controlling and grabbed the lion's share of the jobs. That counselor was very bossy and did not share responsibilities. This person got very emotional if  Dean or other counselors tried to negotiate more jobs for themselves. So Dean felt like he was standing on the sidelines at times.

The camp has a different theme each year, such as pirates, Greek warriors, Mayans, and Vikings. This year the camp's theme was Japanese Samurai. Dean taught/guided campers through woodworking, painting models, and playing many games that involve stealth, patience and teamwork. He also just generally helped the campers with their issues, working on costumes and keeping them safe.
On the Friday of each week of camp, they headed for the camp owner's home, where they put all that they had learned into action. This was by far Dean's favorite day each week. They spent hours out in the woods playing all kinds of games. Then they walked a mile or so back to the owner's house and cooked meat over open fires and had a huge feast. Lastly, they had lots of swimming time in the owner's pool. But this year, Dean did not even take his bathing suit and just sat poolside as a lifeguard or ran other games in the backyard. (It is a small pool that you can see in the pirate photo below.) 
This year was a very emotionally exhausting camp experience for Dean. Due to the tension between counselors, the lack of work and the repetitiveness of the activities, he wanted to quit in the middle of the second week. A pep talk and reminder of the importance of completing what you set out to do did the the trick and he finished that week. By the Tuesday of the third week, however, he was insisting on calling in sick. He said he wouldn't be missed since there were plenty of counselors and a smaller amount of campers then the previous weeks. Again, I reminded him of the importance of completing commitments and how helpful a recommendation letter for future jobs would be. Unfortunately, this camp does not pay its counselors. Even the 20 year old adult wasn't paid for his help. Dean was struggling to see the long-term benefits of a recommendation letter and was frustrated with the lack of pay or reward for his time. I thought about what I could do to propel him on with a positive attitude through the last three days and decided to pay him in a gift for his perseverance once he completed the job. Now, some may see this as a bribe, but I don't. Dean has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and this population struggles to see into their future and understand the benefits and consequences of current actions on the future. Dean is very high functioning and understands the impact he is having on the world more than many with this diagnosis, but he needed some motivation and a concrete reward for his work. The promise of a $40 gift and lots of compliments about how I was proud of him for pushing on and completing his commitment did the trick, and he finished out the week successfully. I am sure no one else at camp even knew how unhappy he was with how it went this year.
I am so grateful for the experiences this camp has provided through the last eight years. He has learned about acting and stage combat, how to make metal swords, woodworking, teamwork, different art types and cultures, a few other alphabets from different languages, independence, responsibility, rope climbing and so much more. As a counselor, he has learned about putting others before himself, leadership, showing kindness to scared/upset campers, teaching activities and games to new campers in bite-size chunks, encouraging others and working with difficult co-workers. These are all invaluable skills that will serve him well in the future. It will even serve him next week when he goes off to be a camp counselor at a different day camp that is new to him.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Field Trips Galore

We are having a lovely summer so far. Dean has been busy being a camp counselor for the past two weeks. He has one more week to go at his current camp. He is doing well but is so exhausted each night that he can barely do anything but his pet care chore. He did not participate in all of our field trips, because he was at camp or was too tired to go along at night. We also had Grandma Sue in town for the week, so we did lots of sightseeing kinds of things.

A Puzzle Walk ~ We discovered a website that had puzzle walks for our city. It is kind of like a scavenger hunt. We purchased and downloaded the link. The link would last on my phone for three days and led us on a walk around the downtown of our city. There were three walks to pick from and we picked the ghost walk. At each stop we had to solve a puzzle before getting directions to the next location. We were also told a bit of history at each stop. I really thought I knew tons about our downtown, especially about ghost stories, since that is a common interest in our family. But I learned more ghost stories and more details about the ones I already knew. We even learned a bit of Latin while interpreting our city's motto. It was definitely a fun evening, and we will do another one if I can get another discount code. It was a bit pricey for our family at full price.

Levo Oculos Veos In Montes ~  I lift my eyes to the mountains

Greenville Zoo ~ We also had a lovely few hours at the zoo in a nearby city. The zoo was small but had giraffes, so it was absolutely delightful to me. I love giraffes. There were tons of storms racing through the area so the zoo was almost empty. It didn't rain while we were there, and we were blessed with the place almost to ourselves. Dean did get to go along on this trip, because it was on the weekend.
My girl has the wingspan of a turkey vulture.

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The giraffes were so close!

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Timothy loved the giant tortoise in the background. He has always loved turtles.

A Salt Cave ~ We visited the man-made salt cave in our city this week, while my stepmother was getting a massage. There were no pictures allowed, but I got a stock photo off the web. We were led into the salt cave where there was soft music playing and comfortable chairs and blankets. We went to a public session and almost every seat was filled, but everyone there was calm and whispering.  Anne and I fell asleep during our 45 minute session. It was that relaxing. The salt is supposed to help with allergies and increase general health. In 45 minutes you are supposed to get the benefits of breathing four days of sea air at the ocean. I don't know how beneficial it truly was for us since neither of us were suffering, but it sure was a nice nap and a new experience.
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Father's Day ~ My dear husband was sick on Father's Day and spent most of the day in bed.  We got him all kinds of barbecuing stuff which he has been delightedly using this week. We decided to climb a mountain while he rested and lay part of my Father's ashes to rest. He loved the mountains so much that my stepmother wanted a portion of his ashes left here. We picked the Rattlesnake Lodge trail because it sounded adventurous, had lots of history and was picture perfect. My father loved history and was very adventurous. He was also a professional photographer so picture perfect was a dream come true for him. The trail proved to be much more strenuous than we thought it would be and my stepmother and I needed some encouragement from my mountain goat children to keep climbing to the ruins. We made it and it was worth the sweaty, stumbling hike.
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With my stepmother being in town, we ate out a few times, played miniature golf and wandered through several thrift stores. It was a super fun staycation week. Now I need a rest!

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Katie Graduates!

What an emotional experience this graduation was for me as a Mother to this very special needs daughter. I feel so relieved that she has received her high school diploma. This was a goal that seemed so far out of reach at times yet felt so very important. She was homeschooled until the 8th grade and has been in public school ever since due to extreme circumstances. I could say so much negative stuff about the public school system in our area, but I will leave that out of this celebratory post.
Our relationship with Katie has been so strained in the last year that we were not even sure we would be invited to her graduation. In the end she did invite us and dropped off the tickets the day before.
The whole experience was much more pleasant than we expected. The ceremony was lovely and moved at a quick pace considering there were 325 graduates. The whole experience was rather overwhelming for Katie. She managed to get through it without any major issues and had a pleasant attitude. 
She looks confused because she couldn't find us in the crowd at first.

After the ceremony, we took her to her residential therapeutic home for a small reception. She didn't have any friends over, but there were therapists, a respite worker who had worked with her for 14 years, her church youth leader and a few special adults who had helped her through the years. It was a nice party and Katie received our gifts well and without complaint. She had requested a homemade apple pie, which I made for her, and we also gave her some fun books on cooking and "adulting" plus a bit of cash.

The next steps in her life are a bit uncertain. She is starting an internship through vocational rehab at a restaurant this Friday. The state will monitor her progress and pay her salary for up to six months if everyone agrees it is a good fit. After that, the restaurant can choose to hire her or she will have to move on. She will be washing dishes and chopping vegetables. She also has been accepted to an independent living program, which she will be moving to at some point in the next 6 months. Sadly, it is only a 90 day program. At the time she went on the list for this program, it was 18 months long and included training in a specialty, such as food services. Due to many budget cuts, all but 90 days have now been cut from it. This program will teach her independent living skills and monitor her progress for several years (IF she reaches out to them for help). I am relieved that there is something there for her, but I wish it was more wraparound services that lasted longer. Nonetheless, we are blessed that, so far, she has been provided for, and we have to stand in faith that she will continue to get the services that make her life safe for her and others who cross her path.

Today I will focus on the dominant feeling in my heart. I feel such a sense of relief that this chapter in her life has been successfully accomplished.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Week of Nervous Anticipation

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I got this quick photo before the door was closed for her exam.
Anne spent the week in more than 12 hours of rehearsals for the big show this weekend. She started out being an understudy for two dances but now is performing both of those dances one night and one of the dances the second night. She has worked hard and is holding her own with much more experienced adult dancers. She is the youngest apprentice the adult dance company has ever had. I look forward to seeing her dance in the performances this weekend. Dancing brings my girl so much joy. All of those rehearsals were the easy part of her week. She also had her Cecchetti ballet (Italian form of ballet) exam this week. She was very nervous going into the exam. It is rare for her to be so nervous about anything dance related. She came out with a smile and felt like she had done well. What a relief we both felt after it was over. A year's worth of work comes down to just 45 minutes of testing. An examiner flies into the region and Cecchetti dance hopefuls come from many states to be tested. We drove in from a neighboring state, leaving at 10 pm after show rehearsals one evening. Talk about real life lessons! Now we wait for the results which could take a few weeks.
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The Birds of War dance. Anne is a human in this dance.
I tell you, the stress was real this week. Everything just aligned to be extra complicated. She had dress rehearsal the night before her exam, which was held in another state. Then the rain we have needed so badly was scheduled to hit our area in the same 24 hours of our out-of-state traveling (on very dark, deserted mountain roads). On top of that, my husband was taking our oldest son to a concert, so he couldn't help us with the late night travel. Then there were a host of issues during the dress rehearsal, so she was released an hour late. We finally arrived at the hotel just past midnight and fell into bed for seven hours of sleep. I am so glad that the driving part went well and our return trip was pretty easy with just gentle rain.

Once or twice a year, I give Dean a special week with unlimited media. While Anne was running around like a crazy person this week, Dean had his unlimited media week. I usually try to make sure one of the weeks is at the beginning of the summer. I find that giving him unlimited media time for a week helps him work on self-regulating skills that are very challenging for people like him born with FASD. It also allows me to get lots done, since being a "cruise director" of my son's life is an all-encompassing experience year round. (It has improved since his junior high years but still is a main focus of my days.) However, outside of media it is still very hard for my son to think up on his own what to do with himself and then execute the activity independently. He spent the first two days on the computer from sunrise to late into the night. By day three he was showing interest in what the family was doing in the evening and playing outside a bit. Now it is day six, and he is showing real boredom and needs some non-media activities. I am happy to accommodate.

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21 years of marriage and still going strong!
David and I managed to squeeze in an anniversary date between all the crazy. We went to a foot sanctuary to have our feet soaked. It was so much fun. We were led into this darkened room with soft music playing. We sat in comfy chairs and were given warm blankets, heated neck wraps and our feet were placed in a lovely concoction of foaming minerals and flowers of our choice. The water was marvelously warm, and they refreshed it often with more warm water. They were so attentive to our comfort and even came running with ear plugs when a car alarm went off outside (that I hadn't even noticed). It was a very relaxing 45 minutes. I am not used to sitting and doing solely restful stuff for myself for that long. It was good practice in self care. 
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Personal Goals ~ Besides all of the above, I got lots done this week.
  • Cleared six large trash bags of weeds (just a 100 or so to go...)
  • Cut all of the dead stems off my Iris plants
  • Organized and got rid of old paint cans
  • Washed the inside of the fridge
  • Took three boxes of stuff to Goodwill
  • Cleaned out the master bedroom closet
  • Helped everyone get their new chore zone concrete in their minds to develop new skills
  • Organized and planned out all of the books we will be using next year for school...just need to order Latin
  • Fixed everything in the mending basket (some items waiting from a year ago)
Dean starts working at camp next week and my stepmother arrives. Here comes another busy week. This coming one should be more exciting than nerve racking, though.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Summer Bucket List

Dean is done with school, including end-of-year testing. He amazed me this year with his testing. He did all of the math in his head. He never put pencil to paper and still got all but one or two problems correct. He took the second highest level of the CAT test. I don't really care for testing, but our state requires it. I generally use the cheapest, shortest test that is approved so we can get it over with quickly. Anne will be done with math on Wednesday and her history book in early June. She will do her end-of-year testing the week after next. This coming week is insane with shows, rehearsals, a ballet exam and crazy schedules that include traveling out of state late into the night to make it to her ballet exam by morning. I am so ready for summer. Just. One. More. Week.

This is our idea list. We don't expect to do it all, but it is nice to have ideas!!
  • Catawba Falls
  • Craggy Gardens
  • Visit a few small towns around us
  • Family Reunion in July
  • Hooker Falls and swimming hole
  • Visit from Grandma Sue
  • Attend Katie's  High School Graduation 
  • Make three apple pies
  • See a movie at Sunset Drive-in theater
  • Watch the fireworks from the top of the dance parking garage on July 4th
  • Movie night at home one day a week
  • Attend one or two performances at Chautauqua (traveling show)
  • Try food from a few food trucks
  • Hike Grandfather Mountain
  • Do a street art field trip
  • Try the new biscuit shop in town
  • Gray Fossil dig and museum
  • Swim at Lake Lure
  • Go tubing down the French Broad River
  • American Museum of Science and Energy (Oak Ridge, TN), where the Manhattan Project took place
  • Our big trip to Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut will come at the end of our summer
We already accomplished one wish on our list this week. We visited Hooker Falls and swimming hole. The water was super cold, as mountain rivers tend to be. We had lots of fun getting a break from the heat wave.
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In between all of the fun listed above, Dean will be teaching at camp for five weeks; Anne will be working two days a week; and we will all be trying to rest after a successful but intense school year. I also hope to paint the back shed yellow and turn the weed patch at the edge of our carport into grass. Wish me luck!

Blessings, Dawn