Devil Dogs, Root Beer and Memories of the Training School

I read a blog post recently which brought back some memories for me. The post, a good but sad read, written by Erik Weiner stayed with me for days (read the article here), as it reminded me of my step uncle’s brother, whom I met only once when I was young.

I am guessing that I was about 9 or 10 years old. One day, out of the blue my parents told my brother and I that we would be going out with our aunt and uncle. We had been sent to their house before for babysitting purposes but never for an “outing”.

They came to pick us up and we were told that we were going to take my uncle’s brother out to lunch. I knew my uncle had a sister. She lived right across the street from him and she and her family were there for every holiday. We were around her often enough to also call her Aunt and her husband, Uncle. Never had I heard any mention of a brother.

We pulled up to a very large building, really rows of buildings. My uncle went inside, while we waited in the car with my aunt. She told us that we could not go in because it wasn’t safe for us to be inside. I got a bit worried at that point.

I was and still am a terrible judge of age, but I am guessing that my aunt and uncle were somewhere in their 40’s. Eventually my uncle came out arm-in-arm with a man who seemed to be about the same age. They put him into the car, in the front seat between them. He was very excited to see us, it seemed, very excited – I was still a little bit afraid.

His name was Freddy. I don’t remember hearing him speak, I don’t think that he could. There were a lot of grunts and noises. He seemed so happy to be out and so happy with the Devil Dogs, his brother brought for him. I remember devil dog remnants being everywhere. My uncle was really good with him, which led me to believe that even though I had never heard mention of him and he was really not spoken about (that I knew of), this visit was not random. He was so good with him and prepared so for everything that I had to believe these visits were quite regular.

My aunt explained that Freddy was mentally challenged – of course back then they used different words, and could not take care of himself. This was why he lived at the “school”.

It did not take me long for my fear to subside and to warm up to him. I’m sure, now feeling comfortable and with my interest piqued, I asked far too many questions. I wanted to know what happened, how he got that way, why he didn’t know how to eat, why he couldn’t or didn’t talk. I don’t remember the exact answer I got to those questions, quite possibly because no answer they could give me would have been good enough of an explanation in my mind. It was probably that he was born that way.  This was confusing to me. I wanted to know if he lived there all of his life, why I never heard about him, why he didn’t come to family holidays, but was afraid to ask. I think this may have been my first experience with anyone with special needs.

We took Freddy for a drive and then stopped at A&W Root Beer for lunch. He really enjoyed that. A&W was close to the “school” where he lived so after lunch we drove back to bring him home.

I was glad that I has the opportunity to meet him. I really liked him. I am sorry to say that this was the first and last time that I ever saw him and I never heard him mentioned again. I didn’t feel comfortable asking about him but I always think of him when I see a devil dog or see an A&W Root Beer, or read an article like the one mentioned above and every time the “school” is mentioned. This was not residential housing or a group home, it was at the time, an institution, probably one of the few options available at the time. I believe it is still in operation today, whether or not it is still considered an institution, I do not know.

Now that  I am an adult, I understand that this is the way things were handled back then. This is where people like Freddy went to live. I also understand, after working in a convalescent home many years ago and from his reaction to us, that it probably wasn’t dangerous in the true sense of the word for us/children to have gone inside. It was probably more like the seniors at the convalescent home, who would get so excited, overly excited and sometimes frighteningly excited to see young children. I could be wrong about this, I have never been inside but that is the way I explained it to myself.

I am happy that I got over my fear quickly enough to enjoy the day with him.  I am sorry that times were as they were and parents were told that this was the only option for Freddy and people like him. I don’t know if Freddy ever lived at home, so I won’t say that this was the case with him, but it was the case with many children back in the day.

can say that Freddy did seem to be very happy and I developed a new appreciation for my uncle after seeing how kind and loving he was with him. I also imagine that Freddy might be the reason that my uncle always remembered DC on his birthday and holidays.

I can also say with certainty that I will never forget Freddy.

If you knew…. Peggy Sue..

DC is not always a fountain of information. Most of the time it is very difficult pulling information out of him.
A few weeks ago, he left for his volunteer job at a local theater at 5:00pm (with his job coach, Mrs. H.). Volunteers have to arrive 2 hours before show time to put the programs together for that performance and to get their assignments for that evening. DC is almost always assigned as a greeter – he passes out the programs to the audience members as they walk in and recites his line “Enjoy the show”.
At the beginning of each season, when I have to pick the dates he is available to work, the name of the show is not available – probably because they do not want the volunteers to choose only by what show they may want to see. I also have to work around his schedule and Mrs. H’s schedule, so I am really just looking at dates and nothing else. This particular show, as it turned out was Alton Brown from the Food Network. When their beginning of the show greeting duties are over, many times the volunteers are able to sit and see a good portion of the show.

At 9:45 I received a text from Mrs. H. I assumed it would say that they were on their way home, but no…. it said “We’re still here”. They finally arrived home at 11:00PM – After being there for 6 hours, the only information he gave me was:
“A man making ice cream” – that was all he had to say…
My friend Bill responded to my non-information post with:
“I LOVE it, with all that Alton does and his wild energy, DC found the most memorable part of Alton’s show! You could start a new Blog called “DC’s Cliff Notes of Live shows at the theater!” I love how our guys and gals simplify what they see and hear into something that is truthful & concise!”
So true….. and I may just do that, but the reviews just may be very short.

DC, his best friend BB and I had tickets for the Buddy Holly Story yesterday. DC did work the performance the night before, but he was excited to see the show again with BB.

On Saturday morning, DC was concerned due to all of the snow that had already fallen (5 inches) when we woke up:
tembling

Despite the snow, we made it.

They both just loved the show. They had a great time.
buddy holly

This morning, DC was full of information and chatter about the ‘wonderful’ time he had yesterday. I was there but he was determined to tell me about it anyway, and I’ll take it…. it was unprompted information.

So in DC’s words, his review of his day:

I had a nice time last ‘even-ing’.
I went to see Buddy Holly Story with my friend BB.
We danced and danced and danced.


We had a scared of fright – jump up – PHEW!
America the Beautiful favorite song.
I went to dinner and Donna and John and Mom – me too!
Perfect!

Translation:
“We had a scared of fright – jump up – PHEW!”
Fortunately we had box seats as DC jumped up as if he could not control himself any longer, to dance. I mentioned to him later that he scared me because he jumped up so fast. He was using part of his favorite phrase “You gave me a fright” from the Lindsay Lohan version of the “Parent Trap”.

“America the Beautiful favorite song”
DC does have a love for all patriotic songs. He even has a sign language dvd of only patriotic songs, but I suspect that he chose it as his favorite from the show because it was really the only song he was familiar with.

“I went to dinner and Donna and John and Mom – me too!”
Because the snow was supposed to be much worse than it turned out to be, BB’s mom offered to drop us off as her car is much better in the snow than mine is. We all went out to dinner afterwards.

So there you have it, DC’s review of his day. I know he had a great time as he is still talking about it.

As for the “blind scheduling” method for volunteers at the theater, I just received DC’s schedule for the second half of the season. The first show he is scheduled to work is “50 Shades, the Musical Parody”.

I think DC and Mrs. H will be hanging out in the lobby for that one………….

Not so “literally speaking”

We all know that DC is very literal (see Literally Speaking)  in his speech and way of thinking. Aside from his black and white,  no-gray-area way of communicating and understanding and his just one mumbled word responses, his manner of speaking is at times very formal, for lack of a better word. Much of his language stems directly from the many books he reads and movies he watches.
He calls the cabinet a ‘cub – board ‘ <cupboard> (emphasis on ‘board’), not because he thinks it is funny,  because that is what it is. That is what he’s learned from his books.

For example, when he knows I happen to have a Friday off from work and he wants me to come to lunch at his program –

“*Vickie, would you be so kind to join me for lunch on Friday at <insert the name of his program>” ~ the whole name please, not the Acronym used by the everyone else ~

 –  (*yes, he calls me Vickie from time to time. In his mind, he is an adult and that is what he should do. It does not bother me in the least. Last night, for some reason, it was “Ms. <Last name> and that is fine too)

He does ask me from time to time, what a word means, not that he will incorporate the word into his vocabulary, he would just like to know. Every once in a while he will make a connection with one word and other in his head. I am always in awe when he manages to do this on this own. This seems to be happening much more lately.

For many years “Wonderful” was his choice when he had a good time or liked something very much. He has started replacing “Wonderful” with “Terrific”. Not a huge deal, but he figured out that it means the same thing and it is a little less formal than “We had a wonderful time”.

A few weeks ago, I was telling DC that we were out of something, I don’t remember what it was at the time, but it was something he was expecting to have for dinner. I explained that we were all out,  it was my mistake, I didn’t know we were out (things tend to go over better with him when it is my fault :).

His reply???

“No problem”

NO PROBLEM!!!!!!

I have never heard him use that phrase, ever. Somewhere along the line he figured out what it means and used it appropriately.

A while back DC and I were having a movie night. DC was waiting in the living room to watch “Maleficent” and I was in the kitchen getting the pizza ready ~ actually I was in the kitchen bleeding all over the counter trying to find a Band-Aid. Not an easy task with “Mr. Band-Aid” in the house – but that is beside the point. Searching for a band-aid box that was not full of band-aid wrappers but no band-aids and mumbling under my breath –  from the living room I heard; “Gee, I wonder what Vickie is up to”.

GEE????

IS UP TO ???

I wrote that one down as soon as DC brought me a Band-Aid from his hidden stash.

In my last post you may have heard “We have to get moving”.

GET MOVING  instead of  we have to go!!!!

I asked him to help me open a Peanut Butter jar – he tried, but he could not get it to open either.

“It won’t budge”

BUDGE?????

Let’s not forget the day he was “in sympathy” for sneaking chips. There have been so many more, but you get the picture. It throws me a little bit every time he comes out with a new one, but it is exciting. It shows me that he is paying more attention to what goes on around him and he is listening to much more than he lets on.

There are still many literal, black and white moments and DC still very rarely refers to himself as “me”.

Recently at a Best Buddy walk, both of his Buddies asked him where he got the Star Trek shirt he was wearing…..

“DC’s room” 

 

 

 

 

Lessons learned on the “Santa Train”

 

train

(Code word of the day: “Supplement”)

The other day, I read a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Autism-Mom. The post, FEELING THE MAGIC was about her son questioning the existence of Santa Claus. Give it a read if you have a minute, it is wonderful.

As parents, we all come to this crossroad sooner or later. It is a sad milestone. It begins to be difficult for them to understand and believe in something that they can not see. Sure we see Santa and his helpers quite often during the months before Christmas, but never during his Christmas Eve deliveries. This causes our children to question his existence. Why can’t they see him? Why must they be asleep? As I explained to DC, Santa has a job to do. If he took the time to stop and visit with the children in every house he delivered gifts to, even with his magic, he would never be able to finish in time to get back to the North Pole to celebrate Christmas with Mrs. Claus and the elves.

It took DC many years to understand Santa. He knew he would receive gifts, but the whole idea of Santa was not something that could be understood easily. His not understanding, did not stop Santa from leaving him gifts.

When it finally clicked and he did finally get it, he was all in! Now that he does understand, he would never and will never question his existence.

The one problem was, DC ‘s Christmas requests have always been small (in size) gifts. Santa could very well bring him 20 DVD’s, but the pile of gifts (visually) would be very small. DC doesn’t understand cost/size vs. number of gifts. He expects a very big pile of gifts. So, over the years I would always “supplement” the Santa pile with gifts of my own.

Being a single mother for more than 20 years now, I am the sole “supplement-or” (yes, I know that is not a word) of DC’s gifts. Which means I not only “add” to what Santa brings just to make the pile look more exciting for DC, but I also, of course, have to buy additional gifts from ‘Mom’. This gets to be a little bit overwhelming for me, not only in cost, but in trying to come up with other gifts ideas to make that “pile” he needs to see.

Now that DC is an adult, and the items he asks for are smaller still, it is becoming harder and harder to “supplement” Santa’s  gifts, to make that Christmas gift pile”,  I did finally have to confess to him that some parents, with adult children, have to help Santa out a little bit. Santa has so many little children to deliver packages to on Christmas Eve, that it is hard for him to get to everyone. So now that the is an adult, Santa only delivers his stocking and the rest of the gifts in his pile are from Mom. Santa always did a pretty good job with his stocking, by the way. He was fine with this. As long as Santa is coming, even just to bring a stocking, all is well.

Coincidentally, the morning I read the post from Autism-Mom, was the day that DC, his best friend, BB, BB’s Dad, Doug and I were going to take a ride on the Santa train.

Earlier this week, BB had just been told by one of his other friends that he was too old and should not still believe in Santa. He was upset by this, but BB knew better. He knew he was correct in believing.

Both DC and BB were very excited about riding the train. They always have the best time when they are together anyway.

stst2

Santa boarded the train a few minutes into our trip. He received more hugs that he expected, I imagine.

BB mentioned to Santa, what his friend had said to him that week. Santa took a little bit of time to talk about it with BB and DC.

(This video below is very poor quality – it was dark on the Santa train, but you can hear some the conversation and Santa’s advice to BB)

“Those who don’t believe, well they are the one’s that are missing out” ~ Santa Claus

So there you have it, straight from Santa’s mouth. BB felt much better. He knew it before but now he really knows that he was right all along…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December reruns

Last week I wrote about DC anxiously awaiting “Peter Pan Live” on Thursday.

His anticipation of the production led me to remember the previous years production of the “Sound of Music Live”, which in turn led to a repeat my Sound of Music post from December 2013.

(By the way, DC’s review of “Peter Pan Live” – “Two eyes closed” – he fell asleep after only an hour… take from that what you will).

The “Sound of Music” post contained photos of a Sound of Music sing-a-long we attended with friends. That and the fact that DC had been watching “Grease” this weekend, led me to the “Grease – Sing – a – Long” we also attended.

Because everything is related and this is the way mind works…….

From March 2014:

“We Go Together……..

…like Ramma lamma lamma Ka dinga da dinga dong
Remembered forever like Shoo-wop sha whada whadda Yippidy boom da boom
Chang chang changity chang shoo bop That’s the way it should be
Waooo Yeah!”

GreaseSR

These Kids Rock! They really do!

That was originally all I intended to say. I wasn’t really considering writing about this, but……. as I was thinking about just how proud I am of each and every one of them and just how much DC and his friends just rise to the occasion and always have a great time together,  I just had to mention the fact that not only does DC have the best friends anyone could hope for…. I do as well.

As I wrote in an earlier post:

***I am fortunate to have friends that are willing to go all out for something that DC loves so much; we all took a line from that song and dressed appropriately for the Sing-A-Long. He and his friends had a ball and I think after the initial embarrassment, my friends did as well.***

DC and I are very fortunate to have these people in our life. I am not just talking about the sing-a-long we just attended, but in general, these people are just the best, THE BEST!

DC and his friend BB love Grease. BB is a long-time fan, DC became a fan because of him. When I heard the local theater had scheduled a Grease Sing-A-Long, I knew we just had to attend. Everyone agreed to attend and then I proceeded to harass them for months about costumes. I will admit that I can be a little bit high pressure when it comes to costumes (just a little bit), but I am sure they expected it and if they didn’t, they put up with me anyway. I am sure the last thing the adults wanted to do was to wear a costume again (Halloween is over, can’t we get a break?) but they agreed.

But…. did they expect to be wearing toilet paper rolls? I doubt it. I think they actually thought I was joking when I first brought it up. They quickly realized that I never joke about costumes so the “roll collection” process began. BB and his Mom, Donna were not able to attend the Sound of Music event with us, so as BB was looking forward to wearing his “Grease Garb”, I don’t think Donna realized that she would also be in costume as well until about a week before the event.

We collected our toilet paper and paper towel rolls and headed to Tonya’s house one Sunday afternoon. Tonya being the craft genius and glue gun wizard, was able to figure out just how to do this.

Talk about “Above and Beyond”; she sat there for hours gluing toilet paper rolls to foam strips! All that we had to do was supply our heads.

Glue Gun Wizard

They looked fantastic! They were unexpectedly comfortable too!

We headed out to the theater on Thursday night in single-digit weather – not wanting coats to muck up the costumes – it was COLD! We had 10 seats in the first row of the upper orchestra section. Coincidentally a friend of mine had the rest of the seats in that row! Together, we made the best row of costumes there (my opinion only, but I firmly believe this to be true 🙂 ).

We sang, we danced, we had many, many photos taken of us as a group and of us with strangers. We were interviewed and photographed by the local news paper. Those under the delusion they would not be noticed, were wrong.
The “kids” had so much fun singing, dancing and using the props provided by the theater. They just ate up all of the attention they were getting.
The adults had a great time, singing and dancing as well..

except for this guy……..

Except this guy - Grease Sing A Long - Beauty School Drop Out

Those still under the delusion of anonymity, had that shattered when they were plastered all over the news on Saturday.

The Theater's Facebook Page

The Theater's Facebook Page

As the show was on a Thursday night and not on a weekend, we weren’t able to go out to eat in full dress afterwards – this had to be some consolation to the adults anyway……

But all joking aside, we did have a wonderful time. I can’t say enough about all of them.

Walking around in public wearing toilet paper rolls….

the truest measure of friendship….

Thanks to all of you!

*Thanks to my friend *Al at work, who always comes up with a fantastic photo of our outings

….and they cancelled Halloween – Part Two

~As you may have read in Part One – during the “Halloween Nor’easter of 2011, we lost power on Saturday night, October 29th~ Now it was Monday.

Monday, morning came. It was Halloween and still no power. I regularly take Halloween off from work, so luckily we did not have anywhere to be. DC had his ‘un-toasted’ toast for breakfast. I realized in my fervor to find coffee the day before, I never had anything to eat (“The Storm Diet” was a ‘terrific’ diet while it lasted) – so I joined DC for some ‘untoasted toast’, went to work again on the ‘*RS Room’ and began mapping out a new coffee hunt.

Before we left on our coffee hunt, DC’s Dad showed up. He delivered a contraption that he made from a car battery. This was, in my opinion THE best thing ever! A place to charge phones, plugs for lights or whatever else I needed to plug in, although the coffee pot did not occur to me at the time, lights for DC, did.

293835_3926409243267_1941068327_n

The downside…… he wanted to take DC with him to his house. Now of course I want DC to be somewhere warm, with power, water and without a RS Room, but on the other hand, I don’t ever want DC and I to be separated during any sort of emergency type of situation; I just want him with me, plain and simple.

Now feeling very cut off from the world, I began my ‘coffee quest’ alone. The Dunkin Donuts I found the day before was no longer open. I stopped at a nearby hotel – knowing full well that there were no hotel rooms available in the state, but I was there, so I may as well check it out. I felt silly even asking and of course there was nothing available.

Tonya, Coach and I tried to keep tabs on each other during this whole fiasco, but with my phone not really working, it was difficult. Fortunately, Tonya called while I was still out driving. She called to say that another friend, Pat, had just had her power restored. She had invited us all to come for dinner and trick-or-treating in her neighborhood. Our kids trick-or-treating together has become somewhat of a tradition. No matter how many Halloween parties DC attends and no matter how many different costumes he gets to wear before Halloween, he still wants to wear a costume ON Halloween. I, for one was tired of the stares and comments when out trick-or-treating with an 18, 19, 20-year-old alone. Going out in a group just seems to work out better.  I immediately called DC’s Dad and told him he could keep him there for the day, but he needed to be home at 5. He was not going to miss Halloween if I could help it and if Pat had her power back, it wouldn’t be long for us to have our power restored.

I kept myself occupied the rest of the afternoon alternating between working on the RS Room and searching for coffee. Finally DC came home. I got him into his costume while it was still light out. I have to say, we planned this costume well…… “Elf” complete with a snowy background.

DC was happy to see his friends, happy to be celebrating Halloween and happy to be somewhere with power. Pat and her neighbors were happy not to be stuck with all of the Halloween candy they had purchased ahead of time.

 

 

bam bam

 

Elf, “Gabriella Montez” (from High School Musical), Sly Stallone and Pebbles were ready to hit the road for trick-or-treat. Surprisingly, almost every house was ready for this last-minute Halloween. Trick- or- Treating with snow on the ground was an  experience they will not soon forget, I am sure. I will never forget it, for sure.

After covering the neighborhood, carrying full bags of candy, it was time to head home. I was still living under the delusion that this would be over by the time we arrived home that night – it was not. We piled on our “storm wardrobe”,  comforters, blankets, etc. and went to sleep. I had to be back at work on Tuesday and when Tuesday morning arrived I still wasn’t sure that there was power at the office, but off we went. Driving to work, I realized that I was preoccupied with hanging branches. This preoccupation lasted for many months after this storm. Even now, when it is windy or stormy, I find myself watching the trees as I am driving.

There was power at the office and DC was able to sit and watch some movies on his laptop. I was just considering bringing him back there that night to sleep in my office, when my mother called. Her power was back so we made plans to go there.

The next two days went pretty much the same as Tuesday. Work, home, check for power, work on RS Room, pack some things and go to Grandma’s before it got dark.

In the morning –  stop home, check for power, work on RS Room, go to work with DC. I really have to say that for a child so very afraid of storms, lightning, clouds, thunder and the power going out – he was a real trooper. I was proud of him. It was almost as if he was able to put his fears and the behavior that goes along with those fears on hold for the duration of this storm and aftermath.

On Thursday night at about 8pm, I called my landline – another thing I did regularly when we were out of the house, and the machine picked up! We had power!

My mother wanted us to wait until morning to leave but I could not think of anything else but getting the RS Room working and clean. DC was beside himself yelling, “My powers is back!” (DC-speak; his powers)

Home – RS Room fixed and clean – everything went quickly back to normal.

All but one party was rescheduled – our “cancelled Halloween” had become a weeklong event running into the second week of November.

Best Buddies held their party on the following weekend – Pebbles and Bam Bam attended – with “Gabriella Montez”, and Best Buddy, Steve of course.

 

Many of the surrounding towns officially cancelled Halloween and rescheduled it for the following week – our town did not. We did receive a flyer in our mailbox from a neighbor with young children asking that the neighborhood join in for an hour-long  trick-or-treat on Saturday night. DC and I participated and then headed out to the next town over – where Halloween was officially rescheduled – to visit a friend and celebrate “Fake Halloween”.

We just happened to have one more unused costume set on-hand that we could not let go to waste.

“Yes, Captain Hammer’s here, hair blowing in the breeze. The day needs my saving expertise”*

Because “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do” * (and a Mom too)

 

I do understand that others had it much worse. My friend Steve had no power for 11 days. 11 Days!!!!! I would have had to just move away at that point. I hoped that because DC had gotten to the point during this whole ordeal where he seemed to be able to put his fears aside, that this new attitude would carry on through to the next storm – it did not.

School had been cancelled throughout this whole power outage. Between hurricane Irene in August and the Halloween nor’easter, all snow days had been used up for the school year and it was only early November.

On the UP side……….. I did loose 5 pounds on the Halloween nor’easter diet and I did get one of those store-bought contraptions from DC’s dad for Christmas that year.

It does have to be charged every few months and each time it comes out, DC gets nervous.

 *RS Room – Raw Sewage Room

(*Joss Whedon’s “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog – 2008)

but….. no one will know what you are supposed to be

In the event that it still isn’t apparent to everyone…….. I LOVE HALLOWEEN, and I couldn’t be happier that DC loves it as much as I do!

“But, no one will know what you are supposed to be”, is something I have been told quite often on Halloween over the years. I sometimes have a very odd sense of what is funny or what, I’m sure other people will get. They don’t always ‘get it’ but I am cracking myself up so no one else needs to join in.

DC and I begin planning Halloween in August. He must have a costume for every event he attends and me, being me, just LOVES this!

As I can always come up with the odd costume, again, thinking I am just totally hilarious, more often DC will come up with a costume that is not a costume at all, just a character wearing regular clothes or worse, a costume that does not exist or that no one has ever heard of except for DC – who is watching very old or obscure musicals or Disney movies.

There was the year that he wanted nothing more than to be “Charlie Bucket” for Halloween……..

Basically, Charlie Bucket is a boy with blonde hair.

Charlie Bucket - Photo Credit - Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie Bucket – Photo Credit – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Alrighty, then…….

In my mind Charlie’s birthday scarf was red – it wasn’t,  but I think I duplicated the jacket (doesn’t show up well in the photo, but it was very close), the hair and hat as closely as I could. I added a Golden Ticket to his trick-or-treat bag, for added recognize-ability  and I think I came pretty close to turning DC into “Charlie Bucket”.

and ……on a side note, the bag must always match the costume….

Even with the addition of  Willy Wonka and an Ooompa Loompa , people who did not know DC personally had no idea he was in a costume..

Then there was the year that DC wanted to be “Daddy Warbucks” from one of his favorite musicals,  Annie. I had planned to dress as Annie, but I broke my toe – the first in a very long line of toe-breaking incidents – so I could not walk around the neighborhood with him. Still,  I assumed that most people would know who Daddy Warbucks was even without Annie by his side………They didn’t.

Even with the addition of Sandy the dog to his trick-trick-or-treat bag, most people thought he was Mr. Six.

(Mr. Six was one of his choices a few years later and yes, everyone “got it”)

Photo Credit - Six Flags Amusement Park and *Al (at work) - Graphic Artist who works magic with my Halloween Pics every year.

Photo Credit – Six Flags Amusement Park and *Al (at work) – Graphic Artist who works magic with my Halloween Pics every year.

I always do try to embrace his costume requests especially when he does come up with a character from a TV show or movie that is more age-appropriate than his usual choices. Generally when he does actually choose something or someone from a television show, it is usually a show that has not been on the air for years. He tends to discover favorite TV shows long after they are out of the public eye, but progress is progress and I will take it.

This year, he surprised me.

DC’s first costume of the 2014 Halloween season was “The Doppler Effect” (Sheldon – The Big Bang Theory) – He loves the Big Bang Theory and as I said,  I will go out of my way to encourage anything he might like that is more age-appropriate than the TV shows and movies he normally gravitates to. Obviously, he did not say “I want to be the ‘Dopper Inact’ (DC-speak)” but he did want to be Sheldon, which would have been easy to do,  as he has worn his Bazinga shirt to death, so we went for the Doppler Effect.

Sheldon, The Doppler Effect - photo credit teamliquid.net

Sheldon, The Doppler Effect – photo credit
teamliquid.net

No, not everyone knew who he was “supposed to be”, but he didn’t know or care. It was funny to the people that did “get it” and that is good enough for me.

DC as the Doppler Effect

Our next party costume was one that, not only did I think no one would have any idea about, but it was really difficult to find a photo on-line to copy from – The Timekeeper from “Spy Kids, All the Time in the World” – and yes, we are required to say the full title of the movie every time it is mentioned.

Timekeeper - Spy Kids All the Time in the World - Photo Credit: Disney - Spykids

Timekeeper – Spy Kids All the Time in the World – Photo Credit: Disney – Spykids

Fortunately, I found some “Bag O’ Gears” on Amazon along with goggles that looked close enough even before gluing said gears all over them. The costume, of course was not exact, it really wasn’t even close, but gears were added, a pocket watch and a flask with a compass, looking close enough to a clock to fit the theme. I thought it made the point and more importantly, DC loved it. As it turned out a few people other than DC  had actually seen this movie and knew right away who he “was supposed to be”.

The Timekeeper,the challenge of our Halloween season, “nailed”, according to a few reviews, we moved on to our final party before Halloween night.
The Beast…. because of course, there must be at least one Disney animated character in the mix.
This was not DC’s first Halloween as the Beast, but years ago, it was much more difficult to find a Beast costume, so again, we had to go “makeshift” and put random pieces together to get the effect. A friend of mine happened to have a mask, so that really helped.

This year, he had the real thing, straight from the Beast’s wardrobe – because, as you know, the Beast is no longer a Beast, he is a handsome Prince, he has no need of this outfit anymore.

The one costume that continues to make the list from the time DC was very young and still to this day is “Jim Dear” from Lady and the Tramp.

(sigh….)  A man in a suit…..

Not my idea of a Halloween costume, but – this is not about me….

……not ALL about be, anyway.

“Jim Dear” and Lady – Photo Credit – Disney’s Lady and The Tramp.

This year, while purchasing a 40’s style hat for DC to wear to an event we attended, I came across and purchased a derby type hat as well.
Next year I will give in to his request for a  “Jim Dear” costume. I suppose I will be shopping for a stuffed Lady and Tramp, and whatever else I can come up with to make “Jim Dear” recognizable. I have 10 months to think about it.

I began writing this post almost two weeks ago after DC attended his first party of the season, holding off publishing until the last costume of our season ‘dropped’ – on Halloween night.

The following is a combination of my encouragement of DC’s affection for something popular, age appropriate, something he actually thinks is funny, and me thinking myself quite hilarious.

Lizard Spock

We are just going to let you guess.

….and they cancelled Halloween (Part One)

(In a recent post, Second Star to the right……. and hang a left, written about our ‘escape’ from hurricane Irene, I mentioned that we were not as lucky a few months later)

It was Friday, October 28, 2011 we were gearing up for a marathon Halloween weekend. Now,  I can be a lot of pressure on Halloween, I know this, but my friends seem to put up with it and fortunately DC loves Halloween as much as I do, so the “pressure” is not too much for him; he enjoys it.

On Friday night we met my friend Coach and her daughter, Candy at the haunted mansion. The ‘kids’ looked quite terrified, but they made it through. DC, although he looked like he was about to fall apart, wanted to go again, while Candy decided to sit out the second go-round.

Mansion

Coach, Candy, DC and I met Doug at a local diner for dinner afterwards. Doug was leaving that night for another leg of his quest to golf in all 50 states. He would be away for more than a week.

After dinner we all went home to get prepared for the 3 party marathon we had scheduled for the following day, one more on Sunday and then of course, Monday was Halloween. Usually the parties are spaced out a little more, but this year they were all crammed into the same weekend. It took a lot of planning costume-wise. The parties were back to back, and DC has grown accustomed to having a different costume for each party and another for Halloween itself (I love this child!!!) so I had to plan the best way for him to make quick changes between each party.

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day. I took this photo at noon outside the house right before we left to meet Tonya and DC’s friend, Salli at their house to begin our marathon.

Puck before the storm

As soon as we arrived, Tonya told me that her husband, Rick mentioned that the weather people  were predicting snow; heavy snow. He warned that it could get really bad out on the roads and there still being  leaves on the trees, may make matters worse.

What????

It’s October!

How much snow could we possibly get in October?

(We totally missed the “leaves are still on the trees”, point – What could that possibly have to do with anything?)

We decided that he didn’t know what he was talking about and even if he did – the sun was still partially shining – this probably would not even begin until much later in the day. We were used to the weather people making a mountain out of a mole hill, so we decided to go full speed ahead with our party plans.

It took only 30 minutes to arrive at Camp for the party. The change in the weather in those 30 minutes was drastic!

The snow was really coming down!

Puck in the SnowSalli in the snow

Still in denial about all of this….How long could this possibly last – It is October! We went inside and joined the rest of the party-goers that were probably in much denial as we were. It seemed as though everyone that RSVP’d  attended and no one left early. It IS October, after all.

We met up with Coach, Candy, Katie and her daughter, Kate (who was dressed as Ariel; this made DC’s day). No one seemed overly concerned about the snow, the party went on as if nothing was going on and we really intended on moving on to the next two parties…..
until we had to get back on the road, that is….

roads

Okay, so maybe we should skip the other parties – they had already been cancelled at this point, we just did not know that.

Katie and Kate witnessed a terrible accident on their way home, but made it home safely. Coach and Candy got home safely as well. We arrived at Tonya’s house to find her son in the driveway, looking at the very large tree branch that had fallen on his car.  Okay – got it –  “leaves still on the trees” – it finally clicked. Their power was out. Tonya went into panic mode (panic mode is usually my role – Tonya is normally relatively calm about everything) – yelling at everyone to get out of the driveway and out from under the other low-hanging branches. Her son, on the other hand, looked relatively calm about the branch laying on his car. DC and I got into my car which was parked under another very large, now very low-hanging branch and started home.

Okay, allright, I’ll say it…….. Rick was right.

We live only one mile from Tonya’s house but it took us 45 minutes to get home. DC was stimming wildly and scripting loudly about the power – his worst fear – all the way.

We made it home and YES we had power, a little unbelievable as our neighborhood seems to lose power quite often, but we did have power and we were thrilled.

Home safely, WITH power, DC and I went about our normal routine assuming that all of this would be over by morning. Within 45 minutes of our arrival home, the power went out. DC was screaming from the bathroom, I told him to stay there, got a flashlight and went up to get him. I hunted about for more flashlights, got DC’s pillow and blankets and brought them down to the living room. THIS IS THE MOMENT, right here that the “sleeping on the couch” situation began. 3 years later, we are still sleeping on the couch most nights.

It was early but I tried to convince DC to try to go to sleep and the power would surely be back by time we woke up – I really believed that, I really did. Of course I had to stay right there on the other side of the couch, so I tried to get some sleep as well.

We woke up on Sunday morning and still no power. Still convinced it would be back soon, DC had breakfast, under protest. Even though losing power is one of the things he obsesses about, he just can not understand that I can not make toast. He can have bread with Peanut Butter (something he ate everyday for lunch), but it was morning and mornings are for toast, not bread. There was plenty of other non-refrigerated items that he could have, but no, he HAD to have toast. He finally gave in and had some “un-toasted” toast and we set out to find coffee.

My landline was down, my cell was only working sporadically. Most of the time, I had to drive to the center of town to get any reception at all. We kept taking short trips throughout the day in search of coffee. I didn’t want to drive too far as with no information to be had, I never knew what we’d be driving into, but on the other hand I needed coffee and DC needed something to do. He loves to and will read his books for hours, normally, but not during a power outage – he is just much too distracted and upset to do any of the things he normally would do.  I have driven him around for hours in the past when we had an outage, but this was different, there was really nowhere to go, trees and branches were still falling and I didn’t want to waste gas. I didn’t know where we would find an open gas station.

It was a very odd and unsettling feeling not really knowing what was going on out there. I felt cut off from the world. Between feeling cut off  and my “dropping dead and how long will DC be alone before anyone knows?” obsession – I was not having a good time.

The day was spent, dealing with what I affectionately named the “raw sewage room” -RS Room for short –  (Did I forget to mention that DC clogged the toilet the very second that the power went out? Did I forget that?) – and taking quick, not too long trips to find coffee. I did finally find a Dunkin Donuts (because apparently I always do) open at about 4pm. They did not have power and were just about out of everything but coffee was still available.  I’m not quite sure why or how they still had relatively hot coffee available with no power and I did not ask; I ordered the bucket size.

At this point, DC was no longer fixated on the power coming back, he was just defeated, very quiet, no emotion, just going through the motions. We got ready for the night to come, I made another attempt at fixing the “RS room’, we read for a while and went to bed. Worried about the cold, I had DC wearing thermal underwear, thermal socks, slippers and his very heavy robe. I began piling blankets and comforters on us and at the point when he had just about enough, he yelled, “Mom! I don’t want to be warm!” – of course he wanted to be warm, but it was his way of telling me that I was putting way too much stuff on him.

Monday, morning came. It was Halloween –  and still no power. Halloween was looking grim!

To be continued in “and they cancelled Halloween- Part 2”

(Happy Halloween to you all! Keeping our fingers crossed for No Storm today!)

Because, Because, Because, Because….BEEEE CAUSE

Autumn In OZ

Autumn In OZ

 

Right up there on DC’s ‘fandom’ meter with all things Disney is the Wizard of Oz. I can not really put my finger on how, when or where this fixation developed as it is not a Disney production, but it certainly did. DC owns every version of every book, movie and soundtrack of The Wizard of Oz.

There is nothing that would make him happier than a visit to OZ.

As I mentioned in Part One of this post (Hello Dolly)

I discovered a festival in Kansas called, you guessed it – The OZ Fest. The OZ fest is held in late September, not October, but still close enough to count as our Halloween trip. The OZ fest was the plan for this year’s Halloween get-away. That WAS the plan….. until we calculated the cost of the flights, rental car and hotel for the weekend and realized that it was almost equivalent to booking a cruise for a week.

Plan discarded…………… (for now)

But now I had OZ on the brain and I was not going to give up the notion of getting DC to OZ. I remembered seeing photos that my sister-in-law posted from an OZ event that they had attended a few years back. It was at  Beech Mountain, North Carolina. I facebooked her to get more details. She told me that this event was very popular, but only open for ONE  weekend each year; this year on October 3, 4 and 5. Tickets had to be purchased in advance. and I was told that it sold out very quickly.

 

Dollywood the day before worked out so, so much better than expected (with the exception of the ‘Mommy-Meltdown’) – so we were excited to get to “the Mountain of Oz’ – as DC calls it. I was still a bit apprehensive about the bus ride to the top, but I realized quickly that most of the mountain drive was by car.

I didn’t realize that DC had packed his watch and was wearing it in the car. I only did realize when we started getting minute by minute updates from the back seat:

“Mom, it is Eight-‘Firty’- Seven, we have to find Uncle ‘Liar’ –

“Mom, it is Eight-‘Firty’ – eight, we have to find Uncle ‘Liar’ –

and so on……….

DC has a difficult time pronouncing most of my brothers’ names. Uncle Larry, is ‘Uncle Lally’ (he can pronounce “Harry” and “Mary” but for some reason “Larry” is impossible for him). Uncle Lyle is ‘Uncle Liar’.  He always could pronounce Ted and Skip – or so I thought. He does pronounce “Ted” correctly, but at one point  I realized that all this time, he was really calling Skip,  Uncle ‘Scamp’ – it sounded so much like ‘Skip’ all of the times that he’s said it that I didn’t realize he was actually calling him ‘Scamp’ until he wrote it down one day.

We arrived at the sky-resort where we were to catch the bus. We met “Uncle ‘Liar’, my sister-in-law and my niece in the parking lot. IT WAS COLD!!!!! My brother was disappointed that we were not in costume (they were not, but he knows me well). My title of “Queen of the Costume” was now tarnished, forever!

(Did I mention that it was COLD!!!???)

– I have to give props to the “Autumn at Oz” people for sending out more than one e-mail to let ticket holders know just how cold it was excepted to be. This would not have occurred to me and thanks to them, we were prepared – But still….. IT WAS COLD!!!

We had a little time after we checking in to have some hot chocolate and coffee. There was a couple of  buildings open for us to go and get warm while we waited.

Needless to say the Italian Ice vendor outside did not do very well on this day. Hopefully he did better on Sunday.

After our hot chocolate/coffee/heat break, we went out to board the bus. We were first in line for our bus, which means we would be seated all the way in the back. My sister in law gets a bit of motion sickness, made worse by riding in the back. She and my brother were allowed to take the front seat, while DC and I took one seat in the back and my niece and Doug took the other, a decision my niece would soon regret.

The Wizard of Oz soundtrack was playing on the bus on our way up the mountain; Doug, being Doug, decided, out of nowhere,  to just belt out “If I were the king of the Foreeeeest”

I will never be able to describe the look on my niece’s face, ever. I told Doug that he was embarrassing her, but that is what he lives for. The look on her face was priceless and although I felt sorry for her, I just could not stop laughing. She was just mortified. Not being able to stop laughing actually distracted me from the ride that I had been so apprehensive about. I will never forget that face and even now as I’m writing, I am laughing.

Exiting the bus;  we soon ran into Dorothy and Toto sitting near a fountain. I have to hand it to these characters, it was so cold but they never let on, one would never know by looking at them that they were freezing.

 (It was never my intention to turn this post into a visual tour, but I can not help myself. It was impressive.)

We followed the path and came upon Professor Marvel. He warned us all about the storm that was predicted to come through at any time!

We continued on the path to Kansas and where we would hopefully find shelter from the oncoming twister.

We found the Gale farm. While waiting to get into the house, Dorothy saw DC waving to her through the crowd. She walked into the crowd to greet DC and launched into the whole spiel – She was very nervous. Miss Gulch tried to take Toto for chasing her cat. She needed to find Auntie Em to protect her and Toto from Miss Gulch.

“If you see Auntie Em, please tell her I need help”

DC ate it up. He felt as if he was a part of the story.

Heading into Dorothy’s house, the Ruby Slippers were on display and a band played on the front porch.

oz 109 oz 108

Once inside we found Auntie Em and DC relayed the message from Dorothy. Auntie Em was thankful and told DC that if he saw her again,  please tell Dorothy to come home.

But we had to hurry to the cellar……. the storm was fast approaching!

Oh NO! It's a Twister!

Oh NO! It’s a Twister!

 “The house began to pitch. The kitchen took a slitch*. … “

Half way down the stairs on the way to the storm cellar and partially through the ‘twister’ DC said, “I am getting very nervous about this” but he continued through the dark through the storm. When the storm was over, we found the house a mess and the floors topsy turvy – it was hard to stand up straight.

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We walked outside to hear the Mayor declaring the Wicked Old Witch, dead!

The Witch Is DEAD!

The Witch Is DEAD!

 “It landed on the Wicked Witch in the middle of a ditch, Which was not a healthy situation for the Wicked Witch”*

Ding Dong!

Ding Dong!

DC was happy to be out of the house and excited as he was now realizing that the journey we were on  was moving in order, right along with the story. The Yellow Brick road would be coming into view shortly.
We rounded the corner and there we met Glinda. Glinda, in DC’s eyes is equivalent to a Princess. She has “princess status” in his world. He is always happy when Glinda appears, and now he would be meeting her in person!

oz 119

oz 121

Onward through Munchkin Land .

Leaving Munchkin Land, the munchkins told us that we had to “Follow The Yellow Brick Road*” – and so we did.


– Along the way we came across every character that resides in the Land of Oz – good and evil.
I can’t say enough about the actors that played these characters. I am told that they are all volunteers. These people were impressive. They were definitely “Disney-Caliber”. Not only were they out there all day, in costume, in the cold, but they never broke character. A few even burst into song.

Let me tell you, if DC decides to throw a line at you, you better be able to respond, in character and correctly. Believe me, his interaction with the Oz characters was no different that his conversations with ‘his’ Disney Princesses. They all had the proper response or song to whatever DC decided to discuss with them and we all know that DC can come up with the rather obscure reference. One HAS to know the movie inside and out to pass the DC realism test. Each and every one of them passed with flying colors.

Once we walked a little bit of the way down the Yellow Brick Road, the wind seemed to die down and we were in direct sunlight; the hats and gloves came off – jackets were still needed but it was really, really nice there.

The Scarecrow sang when DC asked him about his brain and then he pointed us in the direction of the Emerald City – although he could not seem to make up his mind.

DC could not resist knocking on the Tin Man’s chest
just checking for a heart

                                                                                             “Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh my!”*
The Cowardly Lion……
– and yes, Doug showed great restraint in not belting out the ‘King of the Forest’ tune again.

We were now getting closer and closer to the Wicked Witch!

“I’d turn back if I were you!”*

But we didn’t turn back……. Who’s afraid of a Wicked Old Witch anyway? But, curses, we neglected to bring our buckets of water! We’d have to take our chances.

After DC and my niece both declined the Witch’s offer to join her flying monkey army, we were on our way, fully intact. PHEW!

 

We approached the poppy field and said one last goodbye to everyone we had met along the way.

DC, of course had to call an impromptu powwow to make sure that each of the characters were absolutely aware of who they were supposed to be….
– Just in case they didn’t know.

oz 167

“We’re off to see the Wizard”*

But first……. we had to ask for admittance into the Emerald City.

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I so wish I had thought to take a video of this exchange. DC went through the entire scene – he rang the bell, the door guard yelled at him and slammed the door for ringing said bell. He then followed the new directions, now that the sign was turned to the proper side, and knocked… because of course we know that the bell is “out of order” – he laughed and laughed. I think this may just have been his favorite part of the entire day in Oz.
His cousin really got a kick out of how much he was getting a kick out of all of this.

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Directions followed properly – we were granted permission to enter the Emerald City and given an audience with…..
The Man behind the curtain……. The Wizard.

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Finally DC had the opportunity to recite “There’s no place like home”*.
Wish granted, and we made our way back to the bus, but first we came upon the characters once again, this time from the original book.

I read somewhere that the Emerald City was lost to a fire. It is a shame; based on the quality of the Yellow Brick Road – I have to imagine that the Emerald City must have been magnificent. Even with the loss of the Emerald City, the story was told from beginning to end.

 

1381993_10204043053610596_3976397158343208262_n

We were right in time for the bus. I had photos to post so this kept me occupied on the bus ride back down the mountain.

My niece opted not to sit with Doug on the way back down.

I really do not know just what I was expecting at “Autumn at OZ” but I have to say, it was above and beyond anything I could have imagined. It was beautiful, very well maintained and VERY well staffed. It was such a fun day. Yes, it was cold, but we were warned and we were prepared. The trip was well worth it. We had a wonderful time (“terrific time” – ‘terrific’ being DC’s new word).
The whole adventure from the bus stop to the end was very well organized. There was not a long wait for anything.

I would recommend this event to anyone. It is a shame it is only open once a year, but if you are an OZ fan (even if you are not), it is well worth it. DC will never forget his trip to OZ.

I have to talk a little bit about my niece as well. My brother and his family have lived in Tennessee since DC was born. My niece and DC have only actually met each other maybe three times since she was born. So she has not spent much time with DC at all over the years. I have to say I was so impressed with her. She was not afraid of him – you might think that is an odd thing to say as he is her cousin, but believe me – it’s happened, more than I care to think about. She put up with him hugging the stuffing out of her all day. She made attempts at conversation with him, even if the response she got didn’t have anything to do with what she originally said to him. The day went wonderfully and HE is completely enamored with her.

I am so glad we had the opportunity to visit OZ with them – I think we all had a fabulous time.

Even this guy…………

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“This Guy”

In the event that anyone may be concerned ……..

after dinner with my brother and his family, we were able to find a bookstore…

“For Sami, Love Daddy” #WorldDownSyndromeDay

Chloe and Sami

I realize that this story was originally written about Down Syndrome Awareness Month. But it was also written about one of DC’s best friends and one of my favorite people. We have watched Sami grow up into an amazing young adult (and quite the fashionista to boot). We are lucky to have Sami and her amazing family in our life.

*****

In 1992, when Sami, who has Down syndrome, was 18 months old, her father, Rich, was the Senior Producer for the Sony JumboTron in Times Square. He began producing a series of spots to raise awareness and acceptance of people with Down syndrome to run on the JumboTron during Down syndrome awareness month. He continued to produce these PSA’s on his own until 1994, when he contacted Emily Perl Kingsley.

Emily is an Emmy award-winning writer for Sesame Street, the author of a wonderful essay entitled “Welcome to Holland” and a personal friend of Big Bird. She also has a son with Down syndrome.

Emily Kingsley immediately saw the value in what Rich was producing and through her contacts involved NDSS. Together they produced spots which included children with Down syndrome from all around the country.

The response was overwhelming! All of the featured children and their families from 25 different states came to New York City to view the spots on the JumboTron in Times Square.

As there was so much interest that year, NDSS held an event in Times Square the following year, where all the families could gather to watch the video. A wonderful reception followed at Sardi’s for all the families that made the trip.

In 1995, as a result of the success of this event, the NDSS Buddy Walk was born. Again families gathered in Times Square to watch the presentation and then headed up to Central Park for the Buddy Walk.

This year Sami, now 22 years old, returns to the Square for the event that was created because of her and the love of a father for his beautiful daughter.

“In my heart the event will always be “For Sami Love Daddy”

– Which is how Rich tagged everything he produced…….

For Sami

Sami with her “Best Buddy”, Chloe were featured in the Bright Lights of Times Square in New York City on September 21, 2013.

Sami and Chloe on the JumboTron

Sami and Chloe on the JumboTron

Hi-Five as Sami and Chloe see their photo on the Jumbo Tron

Hi-Five as Sami and Chloe see their photo on the Jumbo Tron